While theoretically the National Congress is the highest organ of state power of Japan under the Constitution, it acts as a rubber-stamp parliament in practice for legislation already made by the Legislative Council or decisions made by the Japanese Nationalist Party. The real legislative functions are provided by the Legislative Council where its members are elected from among the Congress members for two-year terms.
Real debates rarely took place in the National Congress. Approvals of legislative bills, work reports and nominations of major state officials are mainly symbolic and votes in the National Congress are always unanimous. Instead, active debates are usually happens during the sessions of Legislative Council or during the the joint sessions between the Legislative Council and the State Council, or more known as the Kyogi Sokai (ｷｮｳｷﾞｿｵｳｶｲ; 協議総會).
Elections and membershipAs of 2016, the National Congress of Japan consists of 781 members. Elections are held every four years under the 1946 National Election Law. 756 deputies are elected by the prefectural congresses which in turn are elected directly by the citizens. Ten deputies are elected by the active members of Japanese armed forces in special electoral districts which does not require two-stage system. Remaining 15 deputies are elected by the councils of overseas Japanese communities, mainly from Brazil and the United States.
Candidates for the National Congress must be Japanese nationals above 25 years old. According to the 1947 Supplementary to the Constitution Regarding the Membership of National Congress, the Congress members are not received any salary unless they are elected to the offices, such the Legislative Council. However, each deputy is entitled to employ two secretaries with taxpayer funds, free train tickets, and four round-trip airplane tickets a month to enable them to travel back and forth to their constituencies.
The Constitution of Japan describes the National Congress as the highest organ of state power of Japan. The National Congress serves as the national parliament as well as the supreme electoral college of Japan. The functions and powers of the National Congress are described in the Constitution and the 1949 Supplementary to the Constitution Regarding the Powers and Functions of National Congress, including:
- Amending and supplementing enactments of the Constitution
- Appointing the members of Legislative Council
- Enacting and amending the legislation adopted by the Legislative Council
- Enacting and amending the national budget adopted by the Legislative Council
- Electing and impeaching the President of the Republic
- Appointing the Ministers of State recommended by the President
- Impeached the Ministers of State following a vote of no confidence in the Legislative Council
- Electing and impeaching the members of National Court
- Examining and approving the reports of various organs of state powers
- Overruling the decree promulgated by the President of the Republic
- Overruling the policies enacted by the Ministers of State
- Overruling the laws enacted by the local organs of state powers that considered inconstitutional
The National Congress also acts as a counterbalance to the executive powers of President. The President need to have the majority support of the Congress in order to execute his/her powers, such in appointing the Ministers of State, declaring war, making peace, granting an amnesty, pardon and clemency, ratifying the treaties with other country, declaring a martial law and confering honors and decorations. The National Congress may overrules any policy adopted by the President, but the President cannot do the opposite since technically the President is also a member of Congress.
Under the Constitution, at least one session of the National Congress must be convened each year. Usually, the sessions of National Congress are held at least twice in one year. First regular session, called the "shoukan" (ｼｮｳｶﾝｼｮｳｼｭｳ, 小寒招集 shōkan shōshū, "minor cold convocation"), is opened on January 5 in which the President reads the annual speech that underlining the activities and yearly achievement of National Government. Second regular session, called "shousho" (ｼｮｳｼｮｼｮｳｼｭｳ, 小暑招集 shōsho shōshū, "minor heat convocation") is opened on July 7 in which the Prime Minister delivers a mid-year report regarding the implementation of government policies.