The Democratic Party (DPJ) of Japan, Japan’s new ruling party, has decided to abolish its policy department. In a notice given to its Diet members by Ichiro Ozawa, the party’s director general, the DPJ has prohibited its Diet members from directly proposing bills, within the exception of lawmaking regarding highly political issues, such as electoral law. Instead, a new set of policy workshops will be held between the DPJ’s parliamentary corps and its ministers, through which the former can express its policy concerns to the latter. The DPJ cabinet members will take these views into account in the process of bill drafting.
The DPJ’s fear is that members of parliament will be captured by interest groups if they are able to propose bills by themselves, and that their role should be limited to reviewing and passing the bills proposed by the cabinet. The Japanese Constitution vests the sole legislative power in the Diet but allows the cabinet to propose bills. But the bureaucracy-dominated system formed in prewar constitutional practice took the position that the the power to propose bills falls within the scope of the executive power. Still, even under the LDP regime, parliament-proposed bills played an important role when Diet members decided to break partisan lines to make laws for which the cabinet had no concern. The DPJ’s new policy of cabinet centralism may raise questions about the separation of powers in a parliamentary government.
–Tokujin Matsudaira, Hitosubashi University