Main Issues [Topic 6 Local Self-Government] | Birth of the Constitution of Japan

Main issues

Topic 6 Local Self-Government

1 US Policy

The Meiji Constitution had no stipulations regarding local self-government, control of local areas was centralized with the national government having authority over the local governments. Immediately following its formation in October 1945, Government Section at GHQ began its study of the Japanese system of local self-government, headed by Major Cecil G. Tilton. In brief, the study called for, (1) shifting authority from the center to local areas, and (2) direct elections for prefectural governors and mayors of cities, towns, and villages. Also, in the "Report of preliminary studies and recommendations of Japanese Constitution,"The comment of [Report of preliminary studies and recommendations of Japanese Constitution] Lieutenant Colonel Milo E. Rowell, Chief of the Judicial Affairs Office, stressed "local responsibilities" and proposed the need to draft stipulations acknowledging limited local autonomy for prefectures and municipalities.

The US Government stated its policy in "Reform of the Japanese Governmental System (SWNCC 228)"The comment of [Reform of the Japanese Governmental System (SWNCC 228)], which it sent to MacArthur in January of 1946 for his information. This policy called for "the popular election or local appointment of as many of the prefectural officials as practicable," indicating the need to strengthen the prefectural and municipal assemblies.

2 Investigations by the Japanese Government

Almost all the members of the Constitutional Problems Investigation Committee (Matsumoto Committee) thought that revisions to only certain parts of the Meiji Constitution would be sufficient, and did not study the inclusion in the constitutional revisions of a stipulation regarding local self-government, as it had not existed in the Meiji Constitution. Also, with the exception of Soichi Sasaki's proposal "Necessity to Reform the Imperial Constitution,"The comment of [Necessity to Reform the Imperial Constitution] an investigation for the Office of the Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal, there were almost no articles relating to local self-government in Constitutional Drafts written by political parties or groups of private citizens. In this proposal by Sasaki, based on the idea of "autonomy being the foundation on which the nation is governed through a popular mandate," a chapter on self-governance was written such that (1) the government will establish local self-governing bodies as necessary and (2) the officers of these self-governing bodies shall be elected by the people.

3 Writing the GHQ Draft

With the start of the framing of the revised constitution in the Public Administration Division of the Government Section, the Local Government Committee, led by Major Tilton, wrote part of the "GHQ Original Draft"The comment of [GHQ Original Draft], but it was thrown out by the Steering Committee because it gave too much authority to local governments. The rewritten proposal ("GHQ Draft Proposal"The comment of [GHQ Draft Proposal]), put together by the Steering Committee was a compromise between those who strongly supported local self-government and those who leaned toward rule by a central government.

Finally, the following stipulations were put in the chapter on "Local Government" of the "GHQ Draft"The comment of [GHQ Draft] : (1) the people shall elect the governors of prefectures, mayors of cities and towns, local assembly members and local senior officials by direct popular vote (Article 86) ; (2) the inhabitants of metropolitan areas, cities and towns shall be secure in their right to manage their property, affairs and government and to frame their own charters within the law as established by the Diet (Article 87); (3) the Diet shall pass no local or special act applicable to a metropolitan area, city or town without the consent of a majority of the electorate of the community (Article 88).

4 Drafting the Japanese Government Proposal and Deliberations in the Imperial Diet

The Japanese Government, in the "March 2 Draft,"The comment of [March 2 Draft] which was based on the "GHQ Draft", included an article which was not in the "GHQ Draft", at the top of Chapter 8, titled "Local Self Government." This article stated that "Regulations concerning organization and operations of local public entities shall be fixed by law in accordance with the principle of local autonomy" (Article 101). The Japanese government included this stipulation based on the idea that a general provision should be included as the constitution would provide for local self-government. Also, the "March 2 Draft" used the phrase "local public entities" in order to bring together such terms as prefecture, city and town which were used in some articles in the "GHQ Draft" when referring to local self-government. This made it possible to legally define which self-governing body would hold autonomy as a "local public entity." Article 87 in the "GHQ Draft" was changed to state, in the "March 2 Draft," that local public entities could enact regulations and ordinances within law, clarifying that it was not a "charter" but a "regulation" that the inhabitants should have the right to enact. On top of that, in the "Outline of a Draft for a Revised Constitution"The comment of [Outline of a Draft for a Revised Constitution] drafted after negotiations with GHQ and published on March 6, it was stipulated that "Local public entities shall have the right to frame their own regulations within such laws as the Diet may enact," changing the holder of the right to make regulations from the inhabitants to the local public entity. Article 88 from the "GHQ Draft" was used almost unchanged in the "March 2 Draft" and the "Outline of a Draft for a Revised Constitution."

During the deliberations on "Bill for Revision of the Imperial Constitution"The comment of [Bill for Revision of the Imperial Constitution] in the House of Representatives and the House of Peers, there were some inquiries about problems with the meaning of "the principle of local autonomy" and the system to hold direct elections for the chief executive officers of local public entities. However they did not develop into heated debates and the Chapter on Local Self-Government was passed as written in the draft.

Based on the stipulations of local self-government as newly set out in the Constitution of Japan, laws such as the Local Autonomy Law were enacted to establish various systems of local self-government. However, because the pre-war structure continued to allow the central government to get involved in local administration, debate went back and forth on how the relations between national and local governments should be. Currently, as the decentralization of power is speeding up in the new century, debate is being renewed over "the principle of local autonomy," the configuration of local public entities, the character of municipal regulations, and participation of local citizens.

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