Legislative Agenda Power and Restrictive Procedural Selection in the Japanese Diet

Mikitaka Masuyama, Seikei University, Dept. Law

Prepared for delivery at the 2000 Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, Washington, D. C., August 31-September 3, 2000.


The Japanese Diet has several institutional features that together create a "short session" system. Scholars conventionally put emphasis on parliamentary accommodation developed in postwar Japan, and argue that the short session system allows the opposition to exercise considerable power in legislative decision making.

This paper challenges the conventional view of the Diet. I begin by presenting a spatial model of agenda setting in which, those who can exercise agenda power, structure the legislative process to bias policy outcome in their favor. To test the hypotheses derived from the spatial model, I apply the statistical technique of duration modeling to estimating the hazard rate of legislative proposals. Combining micro-level legislative data from the major postwar sessions, I show that the likelihood of a legislative proposal to become law is associated with the timing of the proposal, and conditional on the majority's ability to control the flow of legislative proposals. I also examine if the rules of the Diet, under which the majority exercises agenda power, have been institutionalized to influence legislative behavior in the manner intended by the majority.

The findings shed new light on the selection of parliamentary rules in the Diet. The implications not only lead 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.