Japan is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary government. There is universal adult suffrage with a secret ballot for all elective offices. Sovereignty, previously embodied in the emperor, is vested in the Japanese people. The Emperor is defined as the symbol of the state, and unlike other constitutional monarchies, plays no role in government. Japan's Government is a parliamentary democracy, with a House of Representatives (also known as the Lower House, elected at least every four years, with the possibility of snap elections at shorter intervals) and a House of Councillors (sometimes called the Upper House, who serve six year terms with fixed elections every three years). Executive power is vested in a cabinet composed of a prime minister and ministers of state, all of whom must be civilians. The prime minister must be a member of the Diet and is designated by his colleagues. The prime minister has the power to appoint and remove ministers, a majority of whom must be Diet members.
Japan does not have a federal system, and its 47 prefectures are not sovereign entities in the sense that U.S. states are. Most depend on the central government for subsidies. Governors of prefectures, mayors of municipalities, and prefectural and municipal assembly members are popularly elected to 4-year terms.
Japanese politics are renowned for an absence of ideology. Leaders jostle for power, not over ideas. Few fundamental ideological differences divide parties (apart from the Communists, who oppose the US-Japan Mutual Security Treaty and want to abolish the Self Defense Forces). Japan was a one-party system prior to a coalition government in the early 1990s, and the brief interlude of DPJ government (2009-12). The DPJ government was consumed first by imposing unreasonable seiji shudo (political leadership) on the bureaucracy.
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