The decisions of Tokyo as a municipal entity are made by the Metropolitan Assembly, and the Governor partakes in the execution of various policies in accordance with the Assembly's decision.
Ultimately, the administration of metropolitan Tokyo is managed by its citizens, but in practice, it is managed by the Governor and the Metropolitan Assembly composed by Assembly members appointed by the citizens, bearing responsibilities entrusted to them by the citizens.
The relationship between the citizens of Tokyo and the Metropolitan Assembly can be summarized in various rights provided to the citizens under current institutional legitimacy.
The requirements imposed on the rights of the citizens to elect Assembly members are almost the same as the requirements imposed on the rights of Assembly members to be elected. To vote for Assembly members, a citizen has to be at least 20 years old.
The administrative system of Tokyo is basically an indirect democracy system run by the Metropolitan Assembly and the Governor. However, a direct democratic system may also be introduced in order to complement the indirect democracy system and strengthen the citizens' right of autonomy.(See attachment: List of direct applications provided to the citizens of Tokyo)
Among the direct applications, the rights pertaining to the Assembly are: 1) Formulation, amendment and abolishment of ordinances; 2) Dissolution of the Assembly; and 3) Dismissal of Assembly members. The rights of direct application are provided to the citizens who hold the right to elect Assembly members. These rights are summarized below:
The citizens of Tokyo are able to apply for the formulation, amendment and abolishment of ordinances. In the event an effective application is made, the Metropolitan Assembly is required to resolve the ordinance proposal.
The primary objective of offering the citizens the right to apply for the dissolution of the Metropolitan Assembly is for them to check the Assembly's activities rather than to expect the dissolution of the Assembly in order to maintain fairness of its activities. The exercise of this right is strictly regulated.
For example, the period in which such application can be made is limited (by prohibiting the application for one year from the day of a general election for the Assembly members), and the application must include a strictly regulated number of signatures collected from the citizens. In the event the requisite conditions of the application are met, the dissolution is subject to a vote by all the citizens of the Tokyo municipality. The Governor is also authorized to dissolve the Assembly as a countermeasure to a non- confidence resolution formulated against the Governor by the Assembly.
The citizens of Tokyo are provided with the right to apply for the dismissal of Assembly members. Dismissal is subject to a vote by the residents of the electoral district from which the relevant Assembly member was elected.
In order to ensure fair discussion of the budget and other important issues as well as applications and petitions, a system of public hearings is implemented to provide the Assembly with opportunities to refer to the opinions of party concerned and academic experts.
Article 16 of the Constitution of Japan states that: “Every person shall have the right of peaceful petition for the redress of damage, for the removal of public officials, for the enactment, repeal or amendment of laws, ordinances or regulations and for other matters; nor shall any person be in any way discriminated against for sponsoring such a petition.” The provisions of the article define and guarantee the right of petition as a fundamental human right.
Numerous supplications and petitions have been presented by the citizens of Tokyo with the Metropolitan Assembly, and those accepted are discussed by applicable standing committees. Supplications found to be appropriate for the processing of the executive organs are submitted to the Governor, and then the Assembly is reported with the progress of the agenda. Although the executive organs are not legally bound by the decisions made by the Assembly, they need to faithfully fulfill their responsibilities to realize such decisions.
To ensure careful and fair discussions by the Assembly and to clarify the remarks made by Assembly members, discussions taking place during the plenary sessions and in committees are open to the public.
The plenary sessions of regional Assemblies conducted by the municipalities in Japan are generally open to the public, but it is not necessarily the case with committee meetings. However, the Metropolitan Assembly of Tokyo maintains a policy to make both plenary session and committee meeting open to the public in order to conduct careful discussion under the surveillance of the citizens. Furthermore, it publishes the minutes of the proceedings and makes it available to the public. The minutes are accessible through the website of the Metropolitan Assembly and at the Metropolitan Assembly library.
The Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly conducts public relations activities in order to broadly inform the citizens of the municipality of its system and activities. Besides press coverage by the media including newspapers and broadcasting, the Assembly itself issues printed matter such as newsletters and posters and disseminates information about it through TV programs and the Internet.
The activities are also introduced at PR booths in the Assembly Hall for visitors to the Assembly.Our website: http://www.gikai.metro.tokyo.jp/
In order to realize an “Open Assembly of Tokyo” appropriate to this age of decentralization, the Metropolitan Assembly is pursuing comprehensive disclosure of information, basically focusing on 〔1〕 disclosure of the Assembly in session, 〔2〕 pro-active disclosure/provision of information, 〔3〕 disclosure of official documents, based on the “Ordinance for Information Disclosure concerning the Metropolitan Assembly of Tokyo,”