Go to contents

Japan`s Opposition Pledges to Wrest Power From Bureaucrats

Japan`s Opposition Pledges to Wrest Power From Bureaucrats

Posted July. 30, 2009 08:20,   


The main opposition Democratic Party of Japan is pledging to transfer policy authority from bureaucrats to politicians and drastically give more power to the prime minister.

Favored to win next month’s general elections, the party said yesterday, “If we gain power, we will operate the government our way.”

The party indicated that it will present not only policies but also a system to implement them if elected. It has long sought to reshuffle the Cabinet system if and when it takes power.

The highlight of the party’s vision for a government structure is wresting the policy decision process from bureaucrats to politicians, and drastically strengthen the power of the prime minister.

The party also wants to give ministers aides on top of the three top political posts of minister, vice minister and political affairs officer. All of these posts would be taken by Diet members through dual appointments.

To this end, some 100 party members will take over senior posts at ministries. The party will also scrap the meeting of vice administration ministers, which has effectively wielded heavy influence in policy decisions by coordinating the agenda of Cabinet meetings ahead of time, and to prevent vice ministers from disclosing personal opinions to the public.

Thus far, such vice ministers have been the power elite under the governments by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party. At the Foreign Ministry, for example, they transferred the document on a confidential nuclear treaty among themselves only for decades, and only informed the prime minister and foreign minister of the treaty’s existence.

They failed to notify foreign ministers of the treaty since the vice ministers effectively instructed officials and controlled organizations. The Democratic Party’s plan seeks to change such vice ministers into working-level officials.

In lieu of the vice minister meetings, inter-ministerial policy coordination will be handled by a committee of Cabinet ministers selected depending on the agenda.

The plan also seeks a national strategy bureau under the Prime Minister’s Office consisting of elites from the public and private sectors. The bureau will present the national vision and set basic budget plans.

Thus, the Prime Minister’s Office will take over core functions of the economy and finance advisory council and economy-related ministries.

The Democratic Party also wants to set up an administrative reform council to check appointments of key posts based on political favoritism and budget waste, and take charge of bureaucratic reform.