[From July Issue 2012]
Now, a big movement from Osaka, that advocates completely overhauling the Japanese political system, is underway. Standing at the vanguard as the head of the Osaka Restoration Association, is HASHIMOTO Toru, the mayor of Osaka. When he became governor of Osaka Prefecture in 2008, he vigorously carried out administrative reforms to slash the outstanding deficit that Osaka Prefecture had had since 1998, putting the prefecture back in the black in 2009. In order to cut wasteful expenditure caused by the dual administrations of prefectural and municipal bureaucracies in Osaka, in 2011 he resigned his post as governor of Osaka, becoming Osaka city mayor.
By unifying Osaka’s administration under his “Osaka Metropolitan Plan,” Hashimoto aims to make Osaka like Tokyo, and is now promoting the reform of the city. To realize this plan, it’s necessary to revise the law. Judging that he won’t be able to gain support for revising the law from the party currently in power, Hashimoto is grooming more than 200 candidates for the next general election.
Furthermore, Hashimoto is advocating that national referendums be used to vote for prime ministers, and is pressing for other radical reforms to change the stagnant political system. Hashimoto is popular with voters, so that in the early stages, most political parties got on the bandwagon and were favor of the Restoration Association. However, politicians and political parties who view his political reforms as being too radical and aggressive have gradually been distancing themselves from him. There are also people who accuse Hashimoto, who aggressively carries out reform, of being like HITLER.
Conservative governments, with the Liberal Democratic Party generally being in office, have continued to be in power for the 50 years since the Second World War. During this period bureaucrats have held the reigns of political power from behind the scenes and people’s frustration with politics has increased. In the general election three years ago, the Democratic Party of Japan rose to power by advocating administrative reforms aimed at cutting wasteful expenditure on bureaucracy, and providing better benefits to the population. These policies gained them the full support of voters.
However, citizens were disappointed with the DPJ as they did not vigorously pursue these reforms. Spearheaded by Hashimoto, the Restoration Association, which advocates genuine reforms, has appeared on the scene, and citizens are expecting great things from him. He has a strong belief that Japanese politics cannot be altered unless political systems are changed. He has proposed that the prime minister is not chosen by Diet members, but is directly elected by citizens.
How is the Japanese Prime Minister Currently Elected?
Having two legislative houses, the Japanese Diet is modeled on Great Britain’s system of government. The total number of members of the House of Representatives is 480. Three hundred of these are selected from 300 constituencies (one from each constituency). One hundred and eighty are selected from each party’s list of candidates by a system of proportional representation (people vote for a party in 11 separate constituencies). One term is four years, but if the prime minister dissolves parliament during that term, members lose their seats and an election is called.
The membership of the House of Councilors is fixed at 242. Divided up into prefectures, 146 members are selected from each constituency. Ninety six are selected by the whole country through a system of proportional representation. Their term of office is six years, but half of them are re-elected every three years. The minimum age of candidates for the House of Representatives is 25, and for the House of Councilors, 30. The voting age is over 20.
The Japanese prime minister is elected by the members of the Diet and is usually the most influential man in the party. If the House of Representatives and the House of Councilors select different candidates in the elections for prime minister, the candidate selected by the House of Representatives becomes prime minister.