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Growing Democracy in JapanThe Parliamentary Cabinet System since 1868$
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Brian Woodall

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780813145013

Published to Kentucky Scholarship Online: September 2014

DOI: 10.5810/kentucky/9780813145013.001.0001

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Comprador Cabinets and Democracy by the Sword, 1946–1955

Comprador Cabinets and Democracy by the Sword, 1946–1955

(p.83) 2 Comprador Cabinets and Democracy by the Sword, 1946–1955
Growing Democracy in Japan

Brian Woodall

University Press of Kentucky

American occupation authorities insisted that Japan adopt a democratic constitution, but Japanese political leaders were reluctant to revise the undemocratic prewar constitution. So General MacArthur tasked two dozen GHQ officials with ghostwriting a model constitution that would, with Japanese and Allied input, become the Constitution of Japan. It established a system of parliamentary democracy modeled after Britain’s Westminster system. Yet the cabinet failed to assume its expected role as the foremost organ of executive influence, and remained a loose collection of individual ministers acting as advocates for the interests of their respective ministries. During this period Japan was ruled by an American military dictatorship that governed through a civil bureaucracy that remained essentially intact from prewar times. Although Prime Minister Yoshida and other Japanese leaders – who played a role similar to that of the nineteenth-century comprador-merchants, who served as intermediaries between Chinese and foreigners – sometimes got what they wanted by exploiting factional differences within a bipolar GHQ, ultimately they danced to an American tune. Meanwhile, sensational scandals sullied cabinets and confirmed the popular perception that parliamentary democracy and political corruption go hand-in-hand, thus assuring that cabinet government did not become established in practice.

Keywords:   American occupation, postwar planning, Douglas MacArthur, Yoshida Shigeru, Matsumoto Jōji, Far Eastern Commission, “model constitution”, Constitution of Japan, parliamentary cabinet system, Westminster model

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