Currently Japan’s ruling party (Democratic Party) holds a majority in the Lower House, but fewer seats in the Upper House than the opposition party (Liberal Democratic Party). We call the state of power balance as such a ‘Nejire Kokkai’ in Japanese – Twisted Congress meaning the Congress in 'twisted (reversed)' power balance by verbatim translation in English.

What is the proper counterpart to this Japanese term for “Twisted Congress” in short (one) word? I was asked this question recently by one of my friends who is English learning enthusiast like me.

  • Do you mean 捩じり国会 ?
    – Robusto
    Jan 10, 2011 at 3:53
  • Robusto, Yes! That's right. But we write and pronounce it Nejire Kokkai(捩じれ国会),not Nejiri Kokkai (捩じり国会). Somebody told me that The Yomiuri English Version uses "Grid lock Congress" in English. I'm not sure whether it exactly suits to the notion that the power (of the ruling party and opposition party) is reversed in two houses. Jan 10, 2011 at 4:40
  • 1
    "Gridlocked Congress" sounds pretty good.
    – Robusto
    Jan 11, 2011 at 4:31

6 Answers 6


I like the term gridlock.


I know of no set phrase for this situation (which is odd as it happens a lot), but I would used "mixed". As in "The Obama adminsitration may have a harder time moving their agenda this session because they face a mixed congress."

  • +1: I think mixed Congress is probably as close as you can come in American English.
    – Robusto
    Jan 10, 2011 at 4:02
  • It should be noted, however, that this is not a term you can use and expect others to understand what you mean by "mixed."
    – Jay
    Jan 10, 2011 at 4:54

Does Japan have a two-party system?

The U.S. does have a two-party system, and a bicameral Congress, but there is no well-known term for describing the situation where different parties control the Senate and the House of Representatives. Possible ways to express this idea are: "opposing majorities" or "split congress."

In English-speaking countries with parliamentary legislatures, such as Britain, Canada, and Australia, they do have a term, "hung parliament," but this seems slightly different than you describe. In these countries there are many political parties, and "hung parliament" refers to the case where no one party has a majority of seats in the legislature.

  • +1 for "opposing majorities", that sounds like it could possibly be understood without further explanation
    – Benjol
    Jan 10, 2011 at 8:56
  • Yes we have two-parliament system composed of House of Representative (480 seats) and House of Councilors (242 seats) since 1890. Since 1955, the conservative LDP kept holding ruling power until they were defeated by Democratic Party who took office for the first time in 2009 summer election. Then Democratic lost the House of Councilor election in 2010 summer. Because of “Split Congress,” the functions of Congress are almost paralyzed, and government’s initiatives are on gridlock. ‘Split Congress’ is seen as a serious disaster among Japanese. - Yoichi Jan 10, 2011 at 10:28

The most commonly used term in American English (this situation isn't really possible in other English-speaking legislatures) is "split control of Congress" or "a split Congress". Google for those terms and you'll find lots of references.


When referring to the United States (and by extension, other countries with presidential forms of government), Wikipedia refers to this as a divided government.

In countries such as France, with a semi-presidential system, the situation can arise where there is a president from one party, but a different party is the largest one in the National Assembly, leading to the likelihood of the prime minister also being of that party. This is referred to as cohabitation.

The United Kingdom is a parliamentary democracy like Japan. However, its upper house, the House of Lords, is (currently) appointed, contains a significant number of independent members, and has a composition which is not directly related to the balance of parties in the lower house, the House of Commons. In addition, the House of Commons can overrule the House of Lords in certain circumstances. Hence I'm not aware of any term to describe the situation in the question which applies to the UK.


Usually the phrase is specific to the situation. A Republican president may face a "Democrat-controlled" Congress (or Senate or House) or a Democratic president may face a "Republican-controlled" Congress (or Senate or House).

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