The Prime Minister of Japan (内閣総理大臣, Naikaku Sōri Daijin) is the usual English-language term used for the head of government of Japan, although the literal translation of the Japanese name for the office is Prime Minister of the Cabinet. The Prime Minister is appointed by the Emperor of Japan after being designated by the Diet from among its members, and must enjoy the confidence of the House of Representatives to remain in office. The Prime Minister is the head of the Cabinet and appoints and dismisses the Ministers of State. The current Prime Minister of Japan, since September 2006, is Shinzo Abe.
The Prime Minister is designated by both houses of the Diet, before the conduct of any other business. For that purpose, each conducts a ballot under the run-off system. If the two houses choose different individuals, then a joint committee of both houses is appointed to agree on a common candidate. Ultimately, however, if the two houses do not agree within ten days, the decision of the House of Representatives is deemed to be that of the Diet. Therefore, the House of Representatives can theoretically ensure the appointment of any Prime Minister it wishes.
The Prime Minister must resign if the House of Representatives adopts a motion of no confidence or defeats a vote of confidence, unless the House of Representatives is dissolved within ten days. The Prime Minister must also resign after every general election to the House of Representatives, even if they have won a majority in the house. The office of Prime Minister has by convention usually been occupied by the leader of the largest party in the Diet, which has usually been the Liberal Democratic Party since its formation in 1955.
ROLE OF THE THE PRIME MINISTER
* "Exercises control and supervision" over the executive branch.
* Chairs meetings of the Cabinet.
* Appoints and dismisses Ministers of State.
* Permits legal action to be taken against Ministers of State.
* Counter-signs, along with the competent minister, all laws and cabinet orders.
* Supreme Command of the Self Defense Forces.
Theoretically, the Prime Minister is very powerful, with a role most similar to the German chancellor and even greater because of Japan's unitary form of government. However, because of the factionalised and consensus-based nature of Japanese politics in the Diet and with the perpetual creation of coalition governments under the proportional representation schemes, the Prime Minister has much less actual power than his/her counterpart of many other nations. The position as president of the largest party involves negotiation with main party factions and coalition leaders, and legislation is usually initiated and reviewed by party committees rather than by the Cabinet. Furthermore, substantial power is actually wielded by the civil service, over which the Prime Minister has little control.
The current office of Prime Minister derives from the 1946 Constitution of Japan. However the office also existed under Japan's pre-war, imperial constitution to replace the civilian feudal office of kanpaku. Prior to 1946 the Prime Minister was chosen directly by the Emperor, and did not, under the constitution, need to have the support of the Diet. During World War II, the Prime Minister headed the Supreme War Council in the name of the emperor.
OFFICIAL OFFICE AND RESIDENCE
The Office of the Prime Minister of Japan is called the Kantei. The original Kantei served from 1929 until 2002. A new building was inaugurated at this time and now serves as the new Kantei. The old Kantei was then converted to the new official residence, or Kōtei.
LIVING FORMER PRIME MINISTERS
* Yasuhiro Nakasone (May 27, 1918-)
* Toshiki Kaifu (January 2, 1931-)
* Morihiro Hosokawa (January 14, 1938-)
* Tsutomu Hata (August 24, 1935-)
* Tomiichi Murayama (March 3, 1924-)
* Yoshiro Mori (July 14, 1937-)
* Junichiro Koizumi (January 8, 1942-)
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