The Metropolitan Assembly of Tokyo was organized in 1943, following the formation of Metropolis of Tokyo as a result of the merger of Tokyo-fu (prefecture) and Tokyo-shi (city) earlier in the year. In May 1947, when the Local Autonomy Law was enacted based on the current constitution of Japan, the Assembly was positioned as a legislative organ of the local autonomy entity with functions it has now.
At the time, various systems necessary for promoting democratic local autonomy were introduced (including setting up standing committees and special committees, granting the right to submit legislative bills and the right to inspect administrative affairs of the metropolitan government to the Assembly members). The parliamentary system was gradually improved thereafter through several amendments of the Local Autonomy Law.
The Metropolitan Assembly consists of Assembly members elected by citizens of Tokyo.
Candidates are required to satisfy the conditions indicated below:
Eligibility for election is terminated for individuals sentenced to imprisonment or more sever punishment until implementation of such sentence is completed (or the individual sentenced is no longer able to endure the sentence). Time restrictions on the eligibility of election are also imposed on individuals found guilty of offences against the provisions of the Public Offices Election Law and the Political Funds Control Law.
One President and one Vice-President are elected from among its members.
The President represents the Assembly externally, presides over its plenary sessions to operate them smoothly and maintain order in the parliament. The President also controls and supervises the bureau directors in handling of administrative affairs relating to the Assembly. The Vice-President takes the President's responsibilities in his/her absence, or in the event the President is incapable of assuming his/her duties.
Although the terms of the President and Vice-President are stipulated as “depending on the tenure of the Assembly membership”, they are entitled to resign upon approval of the Assembly.
A Group of Assembly members who share the same policies and political strategies comes together in order to realize them and submitted the formation of such a group to the Assembly is basically referred to as a “faction.” As in the case of the Japanese parliament, parliamentary activities are centered on these factions. In principal, every Assembly member belongs to a certain faction, and support or non-support for the submitted bills is determined by each faction.
The Metropolitan Assembly is the legislative organ for the local public entity of Tokyo and is granted rights to decide the primary issues of the entity. The major rights granted to the Assembly are as indicated below:
The right to vote is the fundamental right of the Assembly, and is a way for the entity to make decisions. The Governor is not entitled to execute any major projects without the approval of the Assembly, expressed in the form of a vote. Issues calling for a vote of the Assembly are as set forth within the provisions of the Local Autonomy Law.
Primary issues subject to voting by the Assembly are as indicated below:
The Metropolitan Assembly is responsible for election of the President, Vice-President and members of the Election Administration Commission. Additionally, appointments to specific posts (the Vice- Governor, members of the Metropolitan Public Safety Commission and members of the Metropolitan Board of Education) by the Governor call for the approval of the Assembly.
The Metropolitan Assembly is authorized to conduct inspections or audits of the implementation status of the administrative activities of the metropolitan government in the following ways:
For the purpose of conducting investigations on the administration of the metropolitan government, the Metropolitan Assembly is authorized to request the summoning of voters and other parties concerned, as well as the submission of testimonies and records. These rights are referred to as “Section 100 investigatory rights” as stipulated in the Section 100 of the Local Autonomy Law. This investigation is enforceable, and punishment of violations is provided to assure its implementation.
For example, the parties subject to the investigation cannot refuse to attend without a justifiable cause when he(or she) is requested by the Assembly to attend or testify for the purpose of investigation. When he(or she) refuses, he(or she) shall be punishable to imprisonment or fines accused by the Assembly.
The Metropolitan Assembly is authorized to submit opinion briefs about issues which significantly influence the life of citizens of Tokyo to the diet or relevant administrative ministries.
The Governor and the Metropolitan Assembly are engaged in the administration of the metropolis maintaining a balance between their independent positions. In the event a conflict between the Governor and the Assembly becomes so serious that they cannot maintain the balance between them, the Assembly is authorized to submit a non-confidence resolution against the Governor as a last resort. In order to adopt a non- confident resolution, the concurrence of three-fourths of the attending Assembly members holding office at that time with the attendance of at least two-thirds of the membership is required. Upon adoption of a non- confidence resolution, the Governor is entitled to initiate dissolution of the Assembly within 10 days of the receipt of such resolution as a countermeasure. The Governor will automatically resign if the Assembly is not dissolved within the designated period of time.
Metropolitan Assembly sessions are held on a quarterly basis (in February, June, September and December each year). These are “regular sessions” of the Assembly, generally held for about 30 days per session (approximately 60 days in the sessions for municipal budgetary debates). In addition tothese regular sessions, “extraordinary sessions” may be held as deemed necessary.
The authority to summon the Assembly is granted to the Governor. However, the Governor has to summon extraordinary sessions within 20 days after the receipt of a request made by one fourth or more seats of the Assembly members or the President for summoning extraordinary sessions.
Session held with the attendance of the entire Assembly membership is referred to as “Plenary session.” Plenary session is generally dedicated to the deliberation of legislative bills submitted to the Assembly as well as to determine whether or not the Assembly supports the submission of opinions on affairs related to the public interest.
Sessions is initiated with an opening declaration by the President on the day the Assembly is summoned (inprincipal, attendance of at least one-half of the membership quota is required). The President conducts the session in accordance with a pre-determined agenda for the day.
The Metropolitan Assembly is required to effectively and extensively discuss numerous bills, supplications and petitions in the limited time of the session. Accordingly, committees are organized to examine agendas professionally and particularly prior to voting in the plenary session.
In the Metropolitan Assembly, nine standing committees are currently organized under the provision of the ordinance. Each Assembly member shall belongs to one of the following committees:
It is a common practice to establish special committees every year, including the Special Budget Committee to examine the budget, as well as the Special Committee for Earnings Results for General and Special Accounting and the Special Committee for Earnings Results for Public Enterprise Accounting to evaluate their respective earning results.
Legislative bills submitted to the Metropolitan Assembly are generally referred to committees. Taking into the results of examination by the committees, the legislative bills are subject to the plenary session.
The procedures for the processing of legislative bills are as indicated below:
Various rules have been set in the Assembly to facilitate the effective and democratic operation of the sessions.