Although a Cabinet had existed as part of the Japanese governmental structure since the Meiji period, the system of Government before 1945 could not have been termed 'Cabinet Government'. The authority of Cabinet was circumscribed by various other groups (elites around the Emperor, the military forces, etc.), and the principle of collective Cabinet responsibility was replaced by the principle of individual responsibility of ministers of state to the Emperor.
Nevertheless, however weak it may have been, Cabinet was at the centre of the governmental structure. The Occupation authorities under General MacArthur recognised the potential for stability and accountability in a system of Cabinet Government in the orthodox sense of the term. Thus the CONSTITUTION OF 1946, in its article 65, states unambiguously: 'Executive power shall be vested in the Cabinet'. Article 66 defines the Cabinet as consisting of the PRIME MINISTER, as its head, 'and other Ministers of State, as provided for by law'. In order to avoid the kind of military dominance of cabinets that occurred in the 1930s, the same article provides that: 'the Prime Minister and other Ministers of State must be civilians'. The third clause of the same article embeds the principle of collective responsibility: 'The Cabinet, in the exercise of its power, shall be collectively responsible to the Diet [Parliament]'. Article 68 gives to the Prime Minister the power to appoint and remove ministers, a majority of whom 'must be chosen from among the members of the Diet'. In practice, with few exceptions, Cabinet ministers have been parliamentarians. Article 73 provides a list of the duties of Cabinet. These include administering the law, conducting affairs of state, managing foreign affairs, concluding treaties, administering the civil service, preparing the budget, enacting Cabinet orders, deciding on amnesties, etc. According to article 75, ministers cannot be subject to legal action without the consent of the Prime Minister during their tenure of office. (Thus, using this article, YOSHIDA saved SATŌ EISAKU from arrest in 1954, but MIKI failed to protect TANAKA KAKUEI from arrest in 1976.)
Under the 1946 Constitution, the role of Cabinet nevertheless developed in a rather different direction from what was initially envisaged. In a British-type system of Cabinet Government, Cabinet will normally dominate the policy agenda so long as the party in power maintains a parliamentary majority and its own unity. The biggest threat it faces is the prospect of defeat at the next general elections. In Japan, by contrast, once the LIBERAL DEMOCRATIC PARTY had established itself as the dominant party by the 1960s, even though the threat of electoral defeat had receded, the ability of Cabinet to determine policy was much lower than in the British case.
There were several inter-related reasons for this. First of all, the pre-war traditions of bureaucratic supremacy over politicians carried through into the post-war period, in part because the Occupation chose to work through the existing bureaucracy in order to implement its programmes, and failed to reform it to any great extent. Second, although the number of