comparative politics Japan-related research

JPOSS #41: “Does Divided Government Control Unilateral Policymaking? Evidence from Chair Elections”

The forty-first session of the Japanese Politics Online Seminar Series (JPOSS) took place on August 24, 2023. Phillip Y. Lipscy (University of Toronto) chaired the seminar and moderated the Q&A session.

Takaharu Saito (Nagoya University of Commerce and Business) presented his paper examining the impact of divided governments on unilateral policymaking by executive power. Utilizing a dataset of 790 city governments in Japan, which operate under a presidential framework led by mayors, Saito uses the regression discontinuity method to probe the causal relationship. Specifically, he examines the frequency of unilateral action undertaken by mayors⁠—referred to as “senketsu shobun” in accordance with Article 179 of the Local Autonomy Law⁠—and leverages the as-if random occurrence of divided government measured by the alignment of party affiliations between mayors and city assembly chairs who were elected through narrow winning margins. His analysis finds no significant effect of divided government on unilateral policymaking.

Alex Bolton (Emory University) and Charles McClean (Yale University) offered insightful comments on the meaning of unilateralism and divided government in the context of local governments in Japan, the role of assembly chairs, and electoral rules. During the Q&A session, participants furthered discussions on the concept of partisanship and the relationship between national parties and local politics, and provided additional suggestions for improvement.

The organizers would like to thank the presenters, discussants, and participants, as well as the staff at the Harvard Program on U.S.-Japan Relations, who provided administrative support. We look forward to seeing you at the next session of JPOSS: