Time Constraint and Agenda Control in the Japanese Diet

Sadafumi Kawato and Mikitaka Masuyama

Prepared for delivery at the 2006 World Congress of the International Political Science Association, Fukuoka, Japan, July 9 - 13, 2006.


In democratic legislatures, both governments and members of parliaments (MPs) have the right to initiate legislation, although the agenda setting power of individual MPs has been virtually restricted vis-a-vis that of the government. A common approach in the literature to understand the marginality of membersf legislation has recourse to parliamentarism and party institutionalization, while paying little attention to how the shifting balance in the agenda setting power of the government and individual MPs has affected the legislative process and outcome.

This paper fills the gap by presenting a study of the effects of agenda setting power on the legislative process in the Japanese Diet. Specifically, we theorize that government bills and membersf bills differ on who controls legislative agendas, which affects both the process and outcome of legislation. We argue that the government has every reason to dislike membersf bills and has tried in every possible way to suppress the introduction of membersf bills, at least by the governing party MPs. To test our hypotheses derived from the theory of the governmentfs agenda monopolization and the marginalization of membersf legislation, we conduct a comprehensive analysis of the bills submitted by the government as well as those proposed by MPs.

Our analysis implies that the institutional principle of the Diet follows the fusion of powers, and that the Diet has established its own legislative processes through which MPs modestly exercise the parliamentary prerogative that relatively facilitates power diffusion in comparison with the centralized parliamentary cabinet systems. The findings not only force us to reassess the literature on party politics in Japan, but also contribute to a comparative understanding of the constitutional structure that involves both the fusion of power and the separation of powers in parliamentary democracies.