Institutions and Incentives in the Japanese Diet

Sadafumi Kawato and Mikitaka Masuyama

Prepared for delivery at the annual meeting of the Association for Asian Studies, San Diego Town & Country Hotel, March 4-7, 2004.


One of the central themes in legislative studies is to investigate the legislative consequences of institutions. The Japanese Diet has several institutional features that together create a "short session" system, and the scarcity of legislative time makes the possession of agenda power a central concern of parliamentary politics. During the course of this paper, we will attempt to show how the institutionally-induced scarcity of time affects the way in which both the government and the opposition exercise the parliamentary prerogatives and bias the legislative outcomes to their advantage. To take into account the time factor and the censored nature of legislative process, we will utilize a duration model to estimate the likelihood of a legislative proposal to pass the Diet. Combining micro-level legislative data from major postwar sessions, we will compare the legislative process between the bills submitted by the cabinet and those proposed by the Diet members, and show that the likelihood of successful legislation depends critically on how the cabinet controls agenda setting in the Diet. The findings not only force us to reassess the literature on party politics in Japan, but also contribute to a comparative understanding of legislative institutions with respect to procedural restrictions and the incentives they provide.