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Doubts voiced on PM’s “prerogative” to dissolve Lower House under Article 7 of Constitution

Criticisms are being voiced that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s plan to dissolve the House of Representatives constitutes an “abuse” of his power to dissolve the Diet. The Democratic Party is planning to include restrictions on the power to dissolve the Lower House in its campaign platform. Doubts have always been expressed on the constitutional interpretation that the prime minister has a freehand in dissolving the Lower House. When Abe dissolved the Lower House in November 2014, the same doubts were voiced, and this issue was also discussed at the Diet’s Commissions on the Constitution.


There are two constitutional provisions on dissolution. One is Article 69, which stipulates: “If the House of Representatives passes a non-confidence resolution, or rejects a confidence resolution, the Cabinet shall resign en masse, unless the House of Representatives is dissolved within 10 days.”


On the other hand, Article 7 spelling out the Emperor’s roles in matters of state is regarded as the legal basis for Diet dissolution without a motion of no confidence being passed. Dissolution of the Lower House is included in the acts the Emperor performs “with the advice and approval of the cabinet.” This has been interpreted to mean that the prime minister has the power of dissolution, but since there are no explicit provisions on his prerogative to do so, this issue has long been controversial. (Abridged)

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