How the Majority Exercises Agenda Power in the Japanese Diet

Mikitaka Masuyama

Prepared for the Annual Meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association, April 15-17, 1999, Chicago, IL.


In this paper, I try to understand how the majority exercises agenda power in the Japanese Diet. My analysis relies on the statistical technique of duration modeling, which can be used to explore the effects of independent variables on the occurrence and timing of an event of interest. Duration modeling not only captures the life course of individual legislation within the Diet, but also helps conceptualize the broader policy making process including pre-parliamentary stages. By applying the Cox proportional hazard method to estimating how long it takes for a bill to become law, I show that the governing party exercises agenda power at the proposal as well as the committee referral stages. While agenda power becomes more determining at the proposal stage over the postwar years, it becomes less important at the referral stage. Agenda power is more important when the parliamentary basis of the government is weak. The governing party's ability to preside over committee meetings improves legislative productivity in the second chamber in connection with committee referral timing.