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Constitutional Framework

Japan's Constitution was promulgated in 1946 and came into effect in 1947, superseding the 1889 Meiji Constitution. The adopted Constitution introduced popular sovereignty, social reforms, and the aim of maintaining Japan as a peaceful and democratic country. The emperor is symbolic of the state and represents the unity of the people, rather being the sole sovereign authority. Additionally, the military is under civilian control as power now rests with the people.

The Constitution stipulates the separation of power between the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government. Although the emperor is head of the state, he has no political power and barred from making any political statements. Rather, the emperor's ceremonial and diplomatic duties include greeting foreign dignitaries and attending cultural or public events. The emperor opens the Diet session, promulgates laws and treaties, and award state honors with the advice and approval of the cabinet (naikaku).

Political Parties

Political parties were established during the Meiji Period (1868–1912) but suppressed during the 1930s and 1940s wartime era. In 1947, the Constitution guaranteed the freedom to organize political parties. But an organization supporting a candidate for political office must register as a political party. Since 1947, many local or regional parties have been organized, merged, or dissolved.

However, several parties rose to national prominence such as the LDP (Liberal-Democrat Party) for its conservative, pro-business policies. Since 1999, the LDP and the New Komeito (New Clean Government) Party formed a coalition. The Social Democratic Party (SDP)is the major opposition party supported by labor unions and urban residents. But the main opposition party has been the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), formed initially in the mid-1990s and gradually enlarged by absorbing other smaller parties. The Japanese Communist Party (JCP) is small but influential and has remained on the opposing fringe.

Adapted from – Government and Society – Japan.


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