Who Answers for the Government? Institutional Reform and Ministerial Accountability in Japan

54 Pages Posted: 10 Mar 2020

See all articles by Max Goplerud

Max Goplerud

Harvard University

Daniel M. Smith

Harvard University - Department of Government

Date Written: February 20, 2020

Abstract

A key feature of parliamentary democracy is government accountability vis-à-vis the legislature, but the question of who speaks for the government — cabinet ministers or unelected bureaucrats, and the institutional underpinnings of this decision — has received scant attention. We investigate this question with the case of Japan, using new data covering millions of committee speeches from 1947 to 2016. We document how a party-strengthening electoral system reform in 1994 led to a shift in patterns of behavior related to government accountability: speeches by bureaucrats decreased, speeches by ministers increased, and discursive accountability between ministers and opposition legislators increased. Subsequent administrative reforms expanding junior ministerial roles and placing explicit limits on bureaucratic participation reinforced the effects. These findings shed new light on the institutional underpinnings of ministerial accountability in general, as well as its progressive development in Japan.

Keywords: ministerial accountability, legislative speech, committees, electoral system reform, Japan

JEL Classification: D02, D71, D72 D73

Suggested Citation

Goplerud, Max and Smith, Daniel M., Who Answers for the Government? Institutional Reform and Ministerial Accountability in Japan (February 20, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3542039 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3542039

Max Goplerud

Harvard University ( email )

1875 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Daniel M. Smith (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Department of Government ( email )

1737 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

HOME PAGE: http://sites.google.com/site/danielmarkhamsmith

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