The structure of the Japanese Diet is based on the British parliament system and consists of the House of Representatives (Lower House) and the House of Councilors (Upper House). Each members’ term at the House of Representatives is four years, but during this period, dissolution occasionally occurs. Each members’ term for the House of Councilors is six years, and elections for half of the members occur every three years. Voters must be Japanese citizens of over 18 years of age. Candidates must be Japanese citizens of over 25 years of age for the House of Representatives and over 30 years of age for the House of Councilors. Both houses have district elections (for single-seats in local constituencies) and proportional representation elections (in which candidates are selected by a national ballot). Election campaign funds are distributed from the state to the parties and then to each candidate. The amount differs depending on the size of the party. After a public announcement that an election is going to take place, the candidates’ posters are put up on the streets and their policy speeches are broadcast on TV and radio, mainly via the publicly-owned station. It is said that campaigns by election car are unique to Japan. A car with the candidate’s name on it travels around town, while at the same time that name is announced from it over loud speakers. Some make speeches on a special stand placed on the top of the car at places such as station concourses, where many people gather. Influential figures from each party make campaign speeches on behalf of the candidate and this can hugely influence the outcome of an election. This is also beneficial for the influential supporter, since the candidate will surely join forces with them if he/she wins. Because this means that many winners become politicians by following a leader of a faction, there are people who view this as being problematic. Generally, elections take place on a Sunday and a school in the area is used as a voting station. You can go to vote early some days before the election. Usually the ballot count begins at 8 pm on the election day. As TV stations broadcast their exit polls, in many cases winners are announced soon after this. Though there are many parties in Japan, the Liberal Democratic Party has mainly been in the majority since World War II. Though Japan was defeated in the war against the USA, the fundamentals of its policies are pro-USA. You might say that the LDP has been supported as a result of the fact that Japan has achieved a high level of economic growth under the USA’s military protection. The Prime Minister is selected by ballot by the members of the House of Representatives and the House of Councilors.
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