Finding Freedom Podcast: Are we really equal?
Europe has seen many improvements in GENDER EQUALITY in recent years. Topic is not a taboo even in some less developed democracies. However, lack of equality between women and men in politic...
Elections in Japan are generally free and fair. Parliamentary elections are divided into elections for the House of Representatives and the House of Councillors. The House of Representatives is elected every four years whereas the members of the House of Councillors are elected for six-year terms. Even though political pluralism and participation are generally unrestricted, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) had been in power for nearly 55 years until she was defeated by the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) in the 2009 elections. Japan has a very strong civic culture and there are numerous civic, human rights, welfare, and environmental organisations that can assemble freely and voice their opinion without restrictions.
In the political system of Japan there are no unconstitutional veto players of significance. All potential veto powers such as the military or influential business groups are under civilian control. Therefore, there is no potential threat to the stability and integrity of the government by such external forces.
The press in Japan is free and unrestricted. Most print media and broadcasting stations are privately owned. The only obstacle to press freedom in Japan are the kisha kurabu or press clubs: To ensure that news coverage is homogeneous they foster relations between politicians, bureaucrats and media representatives. In exchange for direct access to politicians, journalists practice self-censorship in their political reporting. Therefore, the mediaâ€™s ability to pressure politicians to greater transparency and accountability is somewhat constrained. The use of the internet however is free and unrestricted. Reporters without Borders ranked Japan in their 2009 Index on position 17 out of 175.
The judiciary is independent from external pressure. The judicial structure in Japan consists of several levels, and judges are impartial. The Japanese legal system does not know trial by jury.
The â€širon triangleâ€˜ of LDP, bureaucrats, and big business was the root of Japanâ€˜s huge post-war economic success but has also frequently been criticised as breeding ground of corruption. Former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi undertook large efforts to break this vicious cycle by trying to break up the strong ties between politics and big business - however, with limited success. Japan is also party to the UN Convention against Corruption but has not yet ratified it into national law. Transparency International ranked Japan in its 2009 Corruption Perceptions Index on position 17 out of 180.
Human rights are protected. Japan is party to all major UN conventions relating to this subject. From our liberal perspective however, one major desideratum still persists: Japan has not yet abolished the death penalty. Instead, Japan actually voted against the UN resolution proposing a worldwide moratorium of the death penalty. In 2008, 15 executions were carried out â€“ this has been the highest number of executions since 1975. Besides this, according to Amnesty International, prison conditions do not comply with international standards. Inmates have only limited access to medical care. Pre-trial detention conditions are subject to criticism as suspects have only limited access to lawyers. Therefore there is a higher chance of abusive interrogation methods and coerced
confessions. Besides this, the overall situation of human rights in Japan is quite good as reflected in our score.
Property - both real and intellectual - is well protected. The only drawback is that it can be tedious and expensive to get patents and copyrights. Contracts are in general highly respected.
Government spending (which includes consumption and transfer payments) is high, equalling about 36 percent of the GDP. There is a further upward trend since Japan has to pay for rising cost of social welfare for its ageing population. Overall tax revenue - about 27.9 percent of the GDP - consists of a rather high income tax rate (50 percent), an average corporate tax rate (41 percent), a VAT, a tax on interest, and on real estate.
Starting, running, and closing a business is well regulated. It takes 23 days to start a business which is far below the world average of 35 days, to get a business license takes less that the average of 18 procedures and 218 days. Bankruptcy proceedings are uncomplicated. Labour regulations are comparably flexible. The non-salary cost of an employee is moderate, firing procedures are uncomplicated. However, regulations regarding work hours are fairly rigid.
Japanâ€˜s weighted average tariff rate was 1.3 percent in 2008. Potential obstacles to international trade include import/export bans and restrictions; opaque regulations; state trade in some goods; and an inefficient customs administration.