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Discussion: Liberal Democratic Party

Discussion: Liberal Democratic Party

Discussion: Liberal Democratic Party

NOW FOR AN ORIGINAL PAPER ASSIGNMENT:Discussion: Liberal Democratic Party

The changes they [the LDP] made toward a more strongly centralized system of government corrected some of the most obvious mistakes of the Occupation. The Liberal Democratic Party, being in power, also controlled a considerable amount of patronage and had the advantage when seeking the support of economic and professional interest groups. With the support of the majority of the rural vote and access to the resources of the business community, the party was in a strong position. It was on intimate terms with the bureaucracy, … [but these efforts] were not sufficient…. Beginning in 1955, the Liberal Democratic Party attempted to build up a national organization with mass membership.*

The LDP’s consensus-building role became a defining feature of Japanese politics. Delegates to the LDP conference choose the party leader—called the president—before a national election. Until the 1990s, the LDP leader was assured of being elected prime minister. Getting elected president of the party, however, is not easy: A victor emerges only after intense bargaining by party factions, each of which has its own leader, its own constituencies to protect, and its own interests to promote.

The LDP nearly self-destructed in the early 1990s, after a series of political scandals severely tarnished the party’s image. A rising tide of social discontent over the rigors of daily life, high prices, long workdays, and a sluggish economy also contributed to the party’s unprecedented defeat in the historical national elections, shattering the one-party-dominant system. What followed was a chaotic period during which Japan would see five different governments come and go. The LDP was the clear loser, but there were no clear winners.

Promising reform “without any sacred cows,” Junichiro Koizumi, an LDP maverick, won a hard-fought battle to become the LDP’s new president in 2001. He served as Japan’s prime minister from 2001 to 2006. Reform-minded and opposed to cronyism, Koizumi was popular but unfortunately he did not enjoy the support of his own hidebound parliamentary party.