|Politics of Japan
The Liberal Democratic Party of Japan (自由民主党 Jiyū-Minshutō ), frequently abbreviated to LDP or Jimintō (自民党), is a diversely center to right-wing, conservative political party in Japan. It is one of the most consistently successful political parties in the democratic world. The LDP ruled almost continuously for nearly 54 years from its founding in 1955 until its defeat in the 2009 election. Prior to 2009, the party had only been out of power for a brief 11 month period between 1993 and 1994. The LDP is not to be confused with the now-defunct Liberal Party (自由党 Jiyūtō ), which merged with the Democratic Party of Japan, the main opposition party, in November 2003.
As the LDP backed by Japanese conservatives, the policies inflects their desire to preserve own tradition/culture including the monarchical system. While pursuing policies of free-trade/market competition, the ideology of cooperation is respected as well. However, the LDP has not espoused a well-defined, unified ideology or political philosophy, due to its long term regimes. Its members hold a variety of positions that could be broadly defined as being to the right of the opposition parties. The LDP traditionally identified itself with a number of general goals: rapid, export-based economic growth; close cooperation with the United States in foreign and defense policies; and several newer issues, such as administrative reform. Administrative reform encompassed several themes: simplification and streamlining of government bureaucracy; privatization of state owned enterprises; and adoption of measures, including tax reform, in preparation for the expected strain on the economy posed by an aging society. Other priorities in the early 1990s included the promotion of a more active and positive role for Japan in the rapidly developing Asia-Pacific region, the internationalization of Japan's economy by the liberalization and promotion of domestic demand (expected to lead to the creation a high technology information society) and the promotion of scientific research. A business-inspired commitment to free enterprise was tempered by the insistence of important small business and agricultural constituencies on some form of protectionism and subsidies.
At the apex of the LDP's formal organization is the president (総裁 sōsai ), who can serve two three-year terms (The presidential term was increased from two years to three years in 2002). While the party maintained a parliamentary majority, the party president was the prime minister. The choice of party president was formally that of a party convention composed of Diet members and local LDP figures, but in most cases, they merely approved the joint decision of the most powerful party leaders. To make the system more democratic, Prime Minister Takeo Fukuda introduced a "primary" system in 1978, which opened the balloting to some 1.5 million LDP members. The process was so costly and acrimonious, however, that it was subsequently abandoned in favor of the old "smoke-filled room" method.
After the party president, the most important LDP officials are the Secretary-General (kanjicho), and the chairmen of the LDP Executive Council (somukaicho) and of the Policy Affairs Research Council (seimu chosakaicho).
The LDP was the most "traditionally Japanese" of the political parties because it relied on a complex network of patron-client (oyabun-kobun) relationships on both national and local levels. Nationally, a system of factions in both the House of Representatives and the House of Councillors tied individual Diet members to powerful party leaders. Locally, Diet members had to maintain koenkai (local support groups) to keep in touch with public opinion and gain votes and financial backing. The importance and pervasiveness of personal ties between Diet members and faction leaders and between citizens and Diet members gave the party a pragmatic "you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours" character. Its success depended less on generalized mass appeal than on the so-called sanban (three "ban"): jiban (a strong, well-organized constituency), kaban (a briefcase full of money), and kanban (prestigious appointment, particularly on the cabinet level).
The LDP has 3 major factions:
Election statistics show that, while the LDP had been able to secure a majority in the twelve House of Representatives elections from May 1958 to February 1990, with only three exceptions (December 1976, October 1979, and December 1983), its share of the popular vote had declined from a high of 57.8 percent in May 1958 to a low of 41.8 percent in December 1976, when voters expressed their disgust with the party's involvement in the Lockheed scandal. The LDP vote rose again between 1979 and 1990. Although the LDP won an unprecedented 300 seats in the July 1986 balloting, its share of the popular vote remained just under 50 percent. The figure was 46.2 percent in February 1990. Following the three occasions when the LDP found itself a handful of seats shy of a majority, it was obliged to form alliances with conservative independents and the breakaway New Liberal Club. In a cabinet appointment after the October 1983 balloting, a non-LDP minister, a member of the New Liberal Club, was appointed for the first time. In the 18 July 1993, lower house elections, the LDP fell so far short of a majority that it was unable to form a government.
In the upper house, the July 1989 election represented the first time that the LDP was forced into a minority position. In previous elections, it had either secured a majority on its own or recruited non-LDP conservatives to make up the difference of a few seats.
The political crisis of 1988–89 was testimony to both the party's strength and its weakness. In the wake of a succession of issues—the pushing of a highly unpopular consumer tax through the Diet in late 1988, the Recruit insider trading scandal, which tainted virtually all top LDP leaders and forced the resignation of Prime Minister Takeshita Noboru in April (a successor did not appear until June), the resignation in July of his successor, Uno Sosuke, because of a sex scandal, and the poor showing in the upper house election—the media provided the Japanese with a detailed and embarrassing dissection of the political system. By March 1989, popular support for the Takeshita cabinet as expressed in public opinion polls had fallen to 9 percent. Uno's scandal, covered in magazine interviews of a "kiss and tell" geisha, aroused the fury of female voters.
Yet Uno's successor, the eloquent if obscure Kaifu Toshiki, was successful in repairing the party's battered image. By January 1990, talk of the waning of conservative power and a possible socialist government had given way to the realization that, like the Lockheed affair of the mid-1970s, the Recruit scandal did not signal a significant change in who ruled Japan. The February 1990 general election gave the LDP, including affiliated independents, a comfortable, if not spectacular, majority: 275 of 512 total representatives.
In October 1991, Prime Minister Kaifu Toshiki failed to attain passage of a political reform bill and was rejected by the LDP, despite his popularity with the electorate. He was replaced as prime minister by Miyazawa Kiichi, a long-time LDP stalwart. Defections from the LDP began in the spring of 1992, when Hosokawa Morihiro left the LDP to form the Japan New Party. Later, in the summer of 1993, when the Miyazawa government also failed to pass political reform legislation, thirty-nine LDP members joined the opposition in a no-confidence vote. In the ensuing lower house election, more than fifty LDP members formed the Shinseito and the Sakigake parties, denying the LDP the majority needed to form a government.
After a victory in the Japan general election, 2005, the LDP held an absolute majority in the Japanese House of Representatives and formed a coalition government with the New Komeito Party. Shinzo Abe succeeded then-Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi as the president of the party on 20 September 2006. The party suffered a major defeat in the election of 2007, however, and lost its majority in the upper house for the first time in its history. The party's support continued to decline, and in the 2009 House of Representatives elections the LDP lost its majority, winning only 118 seats, marking the only time they would be out of the majority other than a brief period in 1993. Since that time, numerous party members have left to join other parties or form new ones, including Your Party (みんなの党 Minna no Tō ), the Sunrise Party of Japan (たちあがれ日本 Tachiagare Nippon ), and the New Renaissance Party (新党改革 Shintō Kaikaku ). The party had some success in the 2010 House of Councilors election, netting 13 additional seats and denying the DPJ a majority.