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The Japanese parliament came into existence in 1980 by virtue of the Meiji Constitution. Called the Imperial Diet, it consisted of two houses: the House of Peers and the House of Representatives. Members from the House of Peers were chosen from members of the Imperial Family, the Peers, people who paid high taxes, and others appointed by the Emperor. On the other hand, members from the House of Representatives were elected by a limited franchise. It was only after the 1925 Electoral Law that members of the House of Representatives were chosen under the universal adult male suffrage.

The Meiji Constitution was based on the principle of monarchism with the Emperor's prerogative and power of the Imperial Diet. Many efforts were made to bring in democratic practices and the first Cabinet party only came into existence from 1910 to 1920. It replaced the bureaucratic Cabinets of the past. Nonetheless, the Cabinet continued to report to the Emperor and not to the Diet. The Emperor also appointed the Prime Minister on the recommendation of senior statesmen.

The new Constitution was declared after World War II and put into effect on May 3, 1947. The Constitution proclaims the Emperor as the symbol of the state, thus deriving his position from the will of the people with the sovereign power residing in the people. The Emperor's role (as specified) would be to perform only matters of the state as provided for in the Constitution and have no powers relating to the government.

On the other hand, the Imperial Diet has been replaced by the National Diet, which functions as the highest means of state power and the sole law-making entity of the state.

The National Diet is composed of two houses: the House of Representatives and the House of Councilor. It is somewhat similar to that of the British parliamentary system. The party in power would be the party that controls the most seats in the Diet. This party has the right to appoint the Prime Minister who is usually the party's president. The Prime Minister would in turn appoint his Cabinet, which is usually constituted of the Diet members. The Cabinet is held collectively responsible to the Diet in the exercise of executive power. If the House of Representatives pass a vote of non-confidence, the Cabinet is then required to resign en bloc or the House of Representatives will be dissolved in order for an appeal to be made directly to the country through an election.

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