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2010 Vol.3
Actors and Policymaking Patterns in Japanese Politics


The Democratic administration in Japan that started in September 2009 advocated political leadership and attempted to significantly change the policymaking mechanism. In what context should such reform be understood? What are future issues in policymaking? In order to answer these questions this article explains policymaking patterns and the main actors under the so-called 1955 regime in Japan and then analyzes the effect of changes brought by the Koizumi administration as well as the impact of the advent of the Democratic administration realized by the transition of power.
Under the 1955 regime in Japan, a bottom-up policymaking pattern was established, which was led by bureaucrats as well as legislators who were lenient toward certain special interest groups. In contrast, the United Kingdom”Ÿ”Ÿthe birthplace of the parliamentary system of government”Ÿ”Ÿcentered on top-down policymaking led by the Prime Minister and Cabinet. In other words, the leadership of the Prime Minister was relatively weak in Japan, but it was strong in the UK. The difference in leadership between the two countries mainly came from differences in the cabinet system and the organizational structure of political parties. That is, while weak cohesion of the ruling party and executive branch led to the Prime Minister’s fragile leadership in Japan, strong cohesion of the two entities supported the Prime Minister’s strong leadership in the UK. Junichiro Koizumi’s Cabinet, which started in the spring of 2001, shifted away from bottom-up policymaking and conducted structural reforms, introducing a Kantei-led, top-down policymaking process. It is important that the shift occurred against a backdrop of a certain level of increase in the cohesion of the ruling party and executive branch, which resulted from institutional reforms such as political and administrative reforms.
With newly gained power, the Democratic Party is greatly concentrating its energy on the introduction of a government-led policymaking process. Taking into account the start of the Kan administration in June 2010, this article explores future issues in policymaking.