The Parliamentary Cabinet System—Principles and Reality: Between constitutional scholarship and political science

Author Name NISHIGAKI Atsuko  (Senior Fellow, RIETI)
Creation Date/NO. August 2010 10-J-046
Research Project A Study on the Reform of Governance Structure in the 1990s and Transformation of the Parliamentary System
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The parliamentary cabinet system in Japan is undergoing major changes based on the outcome of governance structural reform in the 1990s. Meanwhile, constitutional scholars are debating aspirational models for the ideal parliamentary cabinet system. Specifically, there is the direction of majoritarian democracy, which is in line with the reform principles of the 1990s, and the direction of consensual democracy, which raises questions about reviewing the principles themselves. But no matter which principle we aspire to adopt, we need a perspective on how to rationally organize relations between the Diet and the Cabinet at the time of actually governing. Then, by comparing the style of the parliamentary cabinet system with the British model or the continental European models, this paper identifies problems with the Japanese constitutional norms that have laid out the parliamentary cabinet system based on the concept of a separation of powers, and identifies points where, under these constitutional norms, the debate overlooks issues that are vital for operating the parliamentary cabinet system. This paper points out that these issues are likely to exceed the scope of that which can be tackled by amendments to constitutional law, suggesting the need for constitutional scholarship to reexamine the structure of the parliamentary cabinet system.