Rethinking Japan's democracy: origins of "hybrid institutions" and their political consequences

Kōno, Masaru GND

This paper advances a way of thinking about the quality of Japan’s democratic polity by reviewing a set of constitutive attributes that define and contribute to its governing structure and processes. In Japan, the basic characteristics that accompany modern democracy, such as rule of law, accountability, responsiveness, individual freedom, and fundamental rights, can be taken for granted. This paper addresses more nuanced features of these characteristics, their historical origins, and how they are born out in the actual working of Japan’s democracy today. In particular, it highlights various aspects of “hybrid” institutions and their political consequences, including the coexistence of conflicting governing principles and the unusual procedure for the selection of the prime minister as stipulated in the constitution. Also discussed are inconsistencies in the electoral rules used for various levels of governments and how they have inhibited the development of political parties and stable party systems.