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The Japanese Prime Minister and Public Policy

The Japanese Prime Minister and Public Policy

Kenji Hayao
Kenji Hayao
Copyright Date: 1993
Pages: 368
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  • Book Info
    The Japanese Prime Minister and Public Policy
    Book Description:

    Despite the undeniable importance of Japan in world affairs, both politically and economically, the office of the Japanese prime minister has recieved far less attention from scholars than have the top political offices in other advanced industrialized democracies. This book is the first major systemic analysis of the Japanese prime minister's role and influence in the policy process.

    Kenji Hayao argues that the Japanese prime minister can play a major if not critical role in bringing about a change in policy. In Japan the prime minister's style is different from what is considered usual for parliamentary leaders: rather than being strong and assertive, he tends to be reactive. How did the role develop in this way? If he is not a major initiator of policy change, how and under what conditions can the prime minister make his impact felt? Finally, what are the consequences of this rather weak leadership?

    In answering these questions, Professor Hayao presents two case studies (educational reform and reform of the tax system) involving Nakasone Yasuhiro to see how he be became involved in the policy issues and how he affected the process. Hayao then examines a number of broad forces that seem important in explaining the prime minister's role in the policy process: how a leader is chosen; his relationships with other important actors in the political system - the political parties and the subgovernments; and the structure of his "inner" staff and advisors.

    eISBN: 978-0-8229-7157-3
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Abbreviations and Japanese Terms
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
  2. List of Agencies and Organizations
    (pp. xix-2)
  3. 1 The Japanese Prime Minister: Reactive Leadership
    (pp. 3-27)

    The role and influenceof the top political leader have always been important concerns in political science, from Plato’sRepublic, to theFederalist, to studies of the modern U.S. presidency: “The need to give direction to government is universal and persisting. Every country, from the Egypt of the Pharoahs to contemporary democracies and dictatorships, faces the challenge of organizing political institutions so that leaders can make authoritative decisions about collective problems of society.”¹ This seems even more true today than ever before, as many countries address again the problems of governability.

    From the United States to the major European countries...

  4. 2 The Japanese Prime Minister in Comparative Perspective
    (pp. 28-45)

    The prime ministeris not a particularly dominant figure in Japanese politics. His role, as was shown in chapter I. seems to be reactive and constrained, especially when compared to that of heads of government of other major countries. This would suggest that he has fewer political resources to influence policy than most other leaders. The purpose of this chapter is to put the Japanese prime ministership in comparative perspective to see whether this is true.

    Comparative analysis is important because it provides a broader perspective to the nature of the political leadership at the top of government. As Richard...

  5. 3 Nakasone and Educational Reform
    (pp. 46-67)

    The Japanese prime ministershippresents a puzzle On the basis of factors that are considered important in determining the influence of heads of government elsewhere, the prime minister should be in a relatively strong political position and thus be able to make a strong impact on the policy process Yet, as we have seen, his role tends to be reactive. He tends to get involved in the process only after an issue is already on the agenda Before we analyze the main factors that explain this, it may help to consider in some detail a couple of concrete cases. This...

  6. 4 Nakasone and Tax Reform
    (pp. 68-95)

    Tax reform was arguablythe most important domestic policy issue of the last half of the 1980s. One of the major reasons for tax reform was to stabilize the government’s revenue base in preparation for the increased expenditures expected with the aging of Japan’s society. But tax reform was controversial: the attempts to introduce a large indirect tax set off protests nationwide. The tax reforms that the National Assembly ultimately introduced in 1987 and 1988 affected virtually every person in Japan. And there were widespread political implications: the introduction of the consumption tax, a value-added tax (VAT), along with the...

  7. 5 The Process of Selecting a Prime Minister
    (pp. 96-121)

    On November5, 1991, Miyazawa Kiichi fulfilled a long-held ambition. After more than a decade of trying, he was finally elected prime minister by the Kokkai, replacing Kaifu Toshiki, who formally stepped down earlier in the day How did he become prime minister and what does the selection process say about the office? The answer is important for a number of reasons. The selection process can affect the style and personality of the incumbent, the types of issue he becomes involved in, and the effect he has on these issues.

    As in other parliamentary systems, the head of government in...

  8. 6 The Prime Minister and Party Politics: The LDP and the Opposition
    (pp. 122-140)

    The reactive leadershipof the Japanese prime minister, as [observed earlier, presents a puzzle. Japan has a parliamentary system of government that is at least formally similar to that of many European countries, such as Great Britain’s. With a parliamentary system controlled by a single majority party, it should be easy to produce policy change because there are few institutional checks and balances on the majority party’s power. The prime minister should, theoretically, have considerable power to make an impact on policy. Yet, as was demonstrated in both the education and tax reform cases, change in Japan is not so...

  9. 7 The Prime Minister and Subgovernments
    (pp. 141-156)

    Japan should havea relatively strong political “center” not only because of the majority rule of the LDP but also because of its parliamentary system. The U.S. presidential system, with its checks and balances, subdivides political authority; hence no single institution is able to declare the will of the government as a whole. Richard Rose argues that this allows sub-governments to flourish.¹ West European parliamentary systems, on the other hand, “fuse” government and politics in the cabinet; thus “cabinet government provides a strong political counterweight to the particularistic demands of pressure groupS.”²

    Japan, given its formal similarity to the...

  10. 8 The Prime Minister’s Staff
    (pp. 157-183)

    Leaders of democratic countriesinevitably face strong constraints on their ability to influence policy, but they are usually not without significant resources of their own. The rise in the prominence of presidents and prime ministers in the government and politics of many countries is the result, at least in part, of the increased level of staff supporting them. In the United States, the rise of presidential government has led to and been stimulated by the growth of the modern White House staff and other organs of the Executive Office.¹ In Great Britain, a similar, if smaller, growth in staff now...

  11. 9 The Prime Minister and Public Policy
    (pp. 184-201)

    The leadership ofthe prime minister in Japan seems quite different from that generally seen elsewhere, either in the West or in Asia. Leaders are often expected to be policy activists. They are supposed to be involved in a wide variety of issues and to be proactive, participating in the process of the issues by setting the agenda or determining the solutions, or both. That is, leadership is usually either technocratic or political. The Japanese premier, however, seems relatively passive and reactive by comparison. He does not get involved in very many issues, and when he does, he generally does...

  12. 10 Conclusion
    (pp. 202-210)

    In virtually all countriesaround the world, the focus of the political system is on the top political leader. In both descriptive and prescriptive models of government leadership, these leaders are expected to play strong, forceful roles in the policy process. Japan, however, offers a distinct contrast to this view. The Japanese prime minister, by the standards of most other countries, is seen to be a weak and passive leader.

    As is shown throughout this book, the prime minister is subject to severe limitations. The selection process makes his position highly vulnerable to challenges from his own party. The political...

  13. Appendix A Lists of Prime Ministerial Issues
    (pp. 213-222)
  14. Appendix B The Constitution of Japan
    (pp. 223-241)
  15. Appendix C Data on Potential Prime Ministers
    (pp. 242-245)
  16. Appendix D Results of Elections for President of the LDP
    (pp. 246-254)
  17. Appendix E Summary of Changes in Rules Governing Elections for President of the LDP
    (pp. 255-258)