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Japanese constitution (1947)

Subject History

Place Eastern Asia » Japan

Period 1000 - 1999 » 1900-1999

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631209379.1999.x


Replaced the Meiji constitution of 1889. It was imposed on Japan by SCAP (Supreme Commander Allied Powers – General macarthur). Article 1 described the emperor as ‘the symbol of the state and the unity of the people deriving his position from the will of the people in whom resides sovereign power’. There was a bicameral Diet (parliament) elected by universal suffrage, which was the only law-making body and the highest state institution. The House of Representatives was the more important of the two houses, as it could force the cabinet to resign by a no-confidence vote and as bills rejected by the House of Councillors would become law if passed for a second time by a two-thirds majority in the House of Representatives. Prewar institutions, responsible to the emperor rather than the Diet (the Privy Council, the War and Naval ministries) were abolished. To prevent the military seizing control of the state, as they had done in the 1930s, the Prime Minister and most of the members of the cabinet (which was responsible to the Diet) had to be civilians and members of the Diet. A Supreme Court (on the American model) was to decide whether any law infringed the constitution. Courts at all levels were independent of the Ministry of Justice. Human rights, freedom of speech, religion and association were guaranteed, the position of women being greatly improved: they had the vote, equal rights ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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