Monday, August 31, 2009

Election in Japan

As many of you know, there was a national election last Sunday in Japan. In it, the center-left Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ, not to be confused with the BJP in India or the SPD in Germany) won an overwhelming majority (308 out of 480) of the seats in the House of Representatives. (Japan's system is much more like Canada and the UK, where the lower house has most of the legislative power and also produces the prime minister, than it is like the UK where the upper house (senate) has a significant amount of power, and the president is elected separately.)

As the center-right Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) had ruled the country for all but 11 months of the past 50 years, this new balance of power will have a signficant impact on the Japanese government.

Karl van Wolferen, a noted Japan scholar, says that:
To say that the task that Hatoyama Yukio and his fellow leaders of the Minshuto [DPJ] have set themselves is daunting would be putting it very, very mildly....correcting the severe imbalance in the relationship between Japan's elected politicians and career bureaucrats is their priority....They want to have cabinet meetings with well-informed ministers who may deliberate on policy and bring up new business, rather than putting their hanko (Japanese name-stamps substituting for signatures) on documents prepared the previous day at the regular meetings of the administrative vice ministers....They want to eliminate the enormous waste and misappropriations of the nicknamed ‘second budget’, which in some years is almost as large as the national budget, but which is administered by the Trust Fund Bureau of the Ministry of Finance and is allocated at the discretion of the bureaucrats.
Read the whole piece here. (Hat Tip: New Republic's "The Plank" blog)

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