The Parliamentary Systems of Japan and Germany: A Comparison

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He saw the election as a test of whether the Japanese people would accept democratic changes in their political system. A team, of about a dozen Army and Navy officers all with special training in government plus a few civilian experts met secretly to discuss, debate and write their model for a new Japanese constitution. The team members used a edition of a book on world constitutions as their main reference. Most of the final wording was drafted by three Army officers, all lawyers.

This "constitutional convention" lasted a total of six days. The resulting constitution borrowed from the British system in establishing a cabinet and prime minister who were responsible to the elected Diet. The guarantees of individual rights included wording similar to that found in the American Bill of Rights.

One part, guaranteeing equal rights, even went beyond the legal protections Americans enjoyed at that time. Other provisions sounded like they had come from the progressive policies of Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal. For example, workers received the right "to organize and to bargain and act collectively Perhaps the most unique part of the "model constitution" was the "no-war clause.

The Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes. This article was included as the result of a suggestion made by Prime Minister Shidehara to MacArthur. Shidehara believed that this provision would show the rest of the world that Japan never again intended to wage aggressive war. To the Japanese people, however, the most radical change from the Meiji Constitution was the removal of the emperor as the source of all government authority.

How countries around the world view democracy, military rule and other political systems

In the "model constitution" the people, acting through the elected Diet, were supreme. MacArthur decided to preserve the position of emperor, but merely as "the symbol of the State and of the unity of the people. The Japanese government leaders were shocked by the radical changes proposed in the "model constitution. After disagreeing among themselves, the Japanese cabinet went to the emperor. On February 22, Hirohito ended the deadlock by commanding that the "model" become the basis for the new constitution of Japan.

On March 6, the Japanese cabinet accepted the new constitution. This was followed by statements of approval by Emperor Hirohito and Gen. MacArthur who later called the document "the most liberal constitution in history. The constitution was widely publicized and enthusiastically discussed by the Japanese people, especially during the days leading up to the April general election. When the Dietmet during the summer of , the newly elected legislators debated and then voted final approval. Japan's new democratic constitution went into effect on May 3, Has Japan's democratic constitution been a success?

MacArthur himself called it "probably the single most important accomplishment of the occupation. In , the American occupation of Japan ended. The Japanese were again an independent people free to run their country as they wished. Since then, the Japanese have changed or done away with a number of the reforms instituted by MacArthur.

One reform remains firmly in place: the "MacArthur Constitution.

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In the words of Japanese scholar Sodei Rinjiro: "Clearly the constitution has sunk its roots among the people. This activity is designed to be done in class before they read the article in this section.

The questions listed below had to be answered by the United States after the surrender of Japan on August 14, Meeting in small groups, students should discuss and write down at least one reason for their own answers to both the following questions. Once Japan is occupied, should the Japanese government be totally abolished and replaced by the direct rule of American military authorities? In Germany the Nazi government had disintegrated as Allied troops closed in on Berlin.

Following Germany's defeat, the Allies set up their own military governments to rule in their respective zones of occupation. In Japan, however, the emperor, national legislature called the Diet , ruling cabinet and the entire government bureaucracy all remained in place at the time of the surrender. Should the U.

A subjective comparison of Germany and the United States

Japan had a written constitution, a "gift" of the Emperor Meiji in In many respects its wording made it similar to our own Constitution. However, the Japanese Constitution made the emperor, not the people, the sole source of political authority. Thus, the Meiji Constitution was a blend of western political thought and Japanese traditions that had developed over the centuries. The two questions listed below had to be answered by the United States after the surrender of Japan on August 14, Meeting in small groups, students should discuss, answer, and record at least one reason for their answers.

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Username Password Remember me. What we need, in our view, is a parsimonious typology that includes the five established types and the Australian case in a systematic manner. Executive-legislative systems in democracies. CSV Display Table. Table 1 uses the two established dimensions for classifying executive-legislative systems — the origin and survival of the cabinet — but accounts for the fact that the executive may only be partially dependent on a directly elected assembly. This may happen in one of two ways or a combination of them : Semi-presidentialism. The executive is divided into two democratically legitimate parts, only one of which depends on assembly confidence.

This sort of division requires the separated part of the executive, the president, is directly or at least popularly elected. It is noteworthy that a typology that integrates the five established executive-legislative systems into a parsimonious and coherent framework logically implies the type that Australian bicameralism instantiates. The combination of comprehensiveness and parsimony also has its costs, however. One is that the typology lumps together cases that a more fine-grained taxonomy would separate.

For example, it lacks a separate category for a case in which both variants of partial assembly confidence of the cabinet exist at the same time. This more complex hybrid exists in the Czech Republic, which has a 1 directly elected, fixed-term president, 2 a prime minister dependent on lower house confidence and 3 a directly elected upper house without the power to dismiss the cabinet.

This case is both semi-presidential and semi-parliamentary. Table 1 groups this case together with purer forms of semi-presidentialism, even though its semi-presidential feature is not conceptually prior to its semi-parliamentary feature. Nevertheless, the typology captures the basic choices any representative democracy has to make in designing its system of democratic delegation and accountability.

The next section looks at the semi-parliamentary logic of delegation in more detail.


A minimal definition ought to provide criteria with which we can identify systems in an unambiguous manner. We can derive a minimal definition from Table 1 Ganghof Ganghof, Steffen. We can classify systems based on clear-cut constitutional rules. In this case, judgements about the required share of directly elected members have to be made. This is a standard problem of operationalisation. View all notes. A substantial share of upper house ministers is now common in Australia.

Yet legislative veto power is certainly important and figures prominently in the ideal-typical definition of semi-parliamentarism Ganghof Ganghof, Steffen.

This definition focuses on the democratic logic of delegation embodied in an executive-legislative system. The ideal-typical logic of semi-parliamentarism is that voters, as the ultimate principal, select two separate but equal agents, only one of which then becomes the principal of the prime minister and his or her cabinet. The full equality of the two legislative agents does not only require that both be directly elected, but also that the part of the legislature without confidence authority the upper house possesses an absolute veto over legislation.

The democratic logic of semi-parliamentarism differs from all other types and creates a potential to balance competing visions of democracy in ways that are unavailable in other systems. Its defining features are crucial for this potential. If the upper house is not directly elected or lacks a legislative veto, it is likely to be subordinate to the lower house. It thus lacks the power and legitimacy to change the overall character of democracy, even when its electoral system differs substantially from that of the lower house. On the other hand, if a directly elected upper house can also dismiss the cabinet in a no-confidence vote, it is likely to become too powerful see Eppner and Ganghof Eppner, Sebastian , and Steffen Ganghof.

If the composition between the two chambers — the two principals of the cabinet — differs substantially, parliamentarism and bicameralism get into conflict, so that the institutional configuration is unlikely to be stable in the long-run. The ideal type of semi-parliamentarism also allows us to see that a certain type of bicameralism is only one of several ways to instantiate it in the real world.

For example, we can imagine a semi-parliamentary system in which the right to a no-confidence vote is reserved for a subset of the members of a unicameral parliament.