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 US 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.
By February 2017 Abe and his wife were snared in a "school for scandal", involving a dubious land deal and an ultra-nationalist kindergarten. The premierís wife, Akie Abe, had been named honorary principal of a new school. Planned by Kagoike, the school was being built on land purchased from the government by Moritomo Gakuen for a fraction of its estimated value. And that the operatorís philosophies imposed upon his young pupils were not just conservative, but rather far-right pre-war nationalism. Japanese media discovered video footage of Moritomo Gakuen pupils singing martial songs at a Shinto shrine.
Abeís approval rating had fallen sharply, as scandals erode public confidence in a government now in its fifth year. Yomiuri newspaper showed approval for Abeís cabinet had dropped by 10 percentage points to 56 percent. A July 2017 NHK poll showed growing public dissatisfaction. Abe's ratings have plunged to the lowest level since he became prime minister for the second time in 2012. According to the Mainich newspaper poll taken between July 22-23, disapproval rate for PM Abe's cabinet rose to 56%, the highest we have seen on any poll since PM Abe took helm at the end of 2012. The approval rate was 26%.
The ruling Liberal Democratic Party suffered a huge setback in the Tokyo metropolitan assembly election 02 July 2017. The LDP took 23 seats, fewer than half of its pre-election total of 57. The number is also far less than its worst-ever result in a Tokyo assembly vote. Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike's new local party and candidates supporting her have secured a majority in the assembly. The Democratic Party only won 5 seats in the Tokyo metropolitan assembly election early this month, down by 2 from the pre-election 7 seats.
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was at the center of an alleged favoritism scandal, but he repeated his denials that he used his influence. Abe's office was suspected of giving preferential treatment to Kake Educational Institution to gain approval for a veterinary school. The institution is named after, and run by, a close friend of the prime minister. Former vice education minister Kihei Maekawa insisted that the prime minister's office influenced the approval process. He said it was a foregone conclusion right from the start.
For Japan, 2019 marked the end of the Heisei era with the enthronement of Crown Prince Naruhito due in May. It is amid this change that in January 2019 the NHK Broadcasting Culture Research Institute released its latest survey revealing how Japanese people view family, life and work. Respondents were asked to what extent "public opinion," "voting in national elections" and "demonstrations, petitions and other activities" are reflected in national politics. The proportion of people who said such behavior is "effective" is falling. The percentage of those who think elections have an impact had stopped dropping and remained flat since 2008, but this time, the decline resumed.
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