Sunday, November 6, 2016

Japan's Political Structure

The current governmental structure of Japan has only been in place since just after its defeat in World War II and much restructuring had to be done. Japan is a Constitutional Monarchy similar to that of the United Kingdom. The components are:
The Emperor: At this point in history, Emperor acts mostly as a figurehead, which represents Japan in a ceremonial way. His political authority is mostly outweighed by elected officials. Japan's current emperor, Akihito, has been in position since 1989. He is the 125th in a continuous line of succession comprising the oldest continuous hereditary monarchy in the world. He is well liked around the world an in Japan alike. However, due to his increasing age (82) and decreasing health, Akihito has expressed interest in abdicating, that is relinquishing control willingly before a transition is required because of death. In this case, power would be transferred to his eldest son and has not been done in Japan since 1817.

The Prime Minister- Currently in power since late 2012, Japan's prime minister is Shinzo Abe. This position is voted on by the National Diet and officially appointed by the Emperor. Minimum age required to hold this office is 25, the person must be a Japanese national, and be civilian, that is not in the military in most cases. Terms are limited at 4 years. Some of the roles of the prime minister include: supervision and control over the entire executive branch, appointing cabinet members, signing laws and other cabinet orders. They are the commander-in-chief of the Japan Self-Defense Forces.

This position seems to be a revolving door in Japan, which experiences high turnover, with very few prime ministers remaining in their post for a 4 year term. Some say the reason for this is because of low approval rating of politicians among the Japanese public. Taking responsibility of actions as well as the actions of subordinates is taken very seriously in Japan. Many choose to right their wrongs by resignation. Often minor issues lead to resignation, which has led many prime ministers to serving between 1-2 years.

The Diet- Pronounced dee-et, this is the assembly of people who make and pass Japanese law and policy. It is composed of two houses, first is the lower house known as the House of Representatives. It has 400 members, with 300 elected by small local areas and the others elected by 11 different electoral blocs that the nation is divided into.

The upper house is known as the House of Councillors. It is comprised of 242 members who serve a six year term. 73 of the members are voted in by the 43 prefectures (or states) that Japan is broken into and 48 by the nationwide list of proportional representation.

The Cabinet- Cabinet members are appointed by the Prime Minister and may be released by them at any time. They are also vacated whenever a new prime minister takes office. It can contain up to 19 other ministers, who are known as Ministers of State. Some ministers oversee multiple areas of policy. Some include: Minister of Overcoming Deflation, Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, or Minister of in charge of the Response to the Economic Impact caused by the Nuclear Accident. Seems like heavy responsibility!

Interesting facts:
-Japan's voting age was just changed in 2016 from 20 to 18, which adds 2.4 million new voters.
-The present system of government in Japan has only existed since just past World War II,  after Japan's defeat and subsequent U.S. occupation.
-Japan's current constitution was written in a matter of days and has remained relatively unchanged since.  
-One political party has held power for over 50 years in Japan, the Liberal Democratic Party. In a future post, I will introduce political parties in Japan.

Stay tuned as I try to delve deeper into Japan's politics by writing about political parties and voting.