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Liberal Democratic Party / Jiyuminshuto

By the 21st Century, the Liberal Democratic Party [LDP] had lost the meaning of its existence, which was to stop the spread of communism and grow the economy. The first was no longer neccessary, and the second no longer seemed possible. It was not always thus. The Liberal Democratic Party [LDP] dominated the political system beginning in 1955, when it was established as a coalition of smaller conservative groups. Until 1993 all of Japan's prime ministers came from its ranks as did, with one exception, other cabinet ministers. The party's fortunes have risen and ebbed: a low point was reached in the July 23, 1989, election to the upper house, when it became, for the first time, a minority party, and again in the July 18, 1993, lower house election, when it lost its simple majority in that body.

By the early 1990s, the LDP's nearly four decades in power allowed it to establish a highly stable process of policy formation. This process would not have been possible if other parties had secured parliamentary majorities. LDP strength was based on an enduring, although not unchallenged, coalition of big business, small business, agriculture, professional groups, and other interests. Elite bureaucrats collaborated closely with the party and interest groups in drafting and implementing policy. In a sense, the party's success was a result not of its internal strength but of its weakness. It lacked a strong, nationwide organization or consistent ideology with which to attract voters. Its leaders were rarely decisive, charismatic, or popular. But it functioned efficiently as a locus for matching interest group money and votes with bureaucratic power and expertise. This arrangement resulted in corruption, but the party could claim credit for helping to create economic growth and a stable, middle-class Japan.

The LDP has a complex genealogy. Its roots can be traced to the groups established by Itagaki Taisuke and Okuma Shigenobu in the 1880s. It attained its present form in November 1955, when the conservative Liberal Party (Jiyuto) and the Japan Democratic Party (Nihon Minshuto) united in response to the threat posed by a unified Japan Socialist Party, which had been established the month before. The union of the Liberal Party and the Japan Democratic Party has often been described as a "shotgun marriage." Both had strong leaders and had previously competed with each other. The Japan Democratic Party, which had been established only a year before, in November 1954, was itself a coalition of different groups in which farmers were prominent. The result of the new amalgamation was a large party that represented a broad spectrum of interests but had minimal organization compared with the socialist and other leftist parties. In 1976, in the wake of the Lockheed bribery scandal, a handful of younger LDP Diet members broke away and established their own party, the New Liberal Club (Shin Jiyu Kurabu). A decade later, however, it was reabsorbed by the LDP.

Unlike the leftist parties, the LDP did not espouse a well-defined ideology or political philosophy. Its members held a variety of positions that could be broadly defined as being to the right of the opposition parties, yet more moderate than those of Japan's numerous rightist splinter groups. 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 stateowned enterprises; and adoption of measures, including tax reform, needed to prepare for the strain on the economy posed by an aging society. Other priorities in the early 1990s included promoting a more active and positive role for Japan in the rapidly developing Asia-Pacific region, internationalizing Japan's economy by liberalizing and promoting domestic demand, creating a hightechnology information society, and promoting 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.

When Shinzo Abe was about to take office as Japan's Prime Minister, The New York Times and other news media published many articles and reports on the rise of Japanese nationalism represented by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and his successor, Shinzo Abe. According to The New York Times, Mr. Abe intends that Japanese "take pride in their country . . . and promote the ideal of a proud and independent Japan."3Mr. Abe has a big vision for the future of Japan. "He has vowed to push through a sweeping education bill, strengthening the notion of patriotism in public classrooms in a way not seen since the fall of Imperial Japan, and to rewrite Japan's pacifist constitution to allow the country to again have an official and flexible military."

"The rise of Abe, an unabashed nationalist set to be Japan's youngest post postwar prime minister and its first to be born after the conflict, underscores a profound shift in thinking that has been shaped by those threats." "Rather than getting praised for wrestling a good round of sumo under the rules that foreign countries make, we should join in the making of the rules," Abe said in a televised debate in September 2006, "I believe I can create a new Japan with a new vision."

In Abe's latest book, Toward a Beautiful Country, Japan's new leader cast doubt on the legitimacy of the Tokyo war crimes tribunal that convicted Japan's wartime leaders. Abe crafted a comparatively ambitious vision. Although he maintained Koizumi's emphasis on the U.S.-Japan alliance as the basis of national defense, he also suggested he wanted Japan to be a more equal partner. Mr. Abe said in his first news conference as prime minister. "I want to make Japan a country that shows its identity to the world." He told reporters that one goal of his administration was to revise Japan's pacifist constitution to permit a full-fledged military.

In the 2009 election campaign, the LDP platform insisted that the alliance with the United States served as the primary axis of Japan's diplomacy and called for it to be strengthened. In the face of the threat of North Korea, it called for security steps to make it possible to take part in the defense of US warships, in which Japan will cooperate in intercepting missiles fired against the United States and in ballistic missile defense as an example of how Japan should exercise the right of collective self-defense. The LDP platform mentioned nothing about the total elimination of nuclear weapons. On the contrary, it calls for "the steady implementation of the U.S. military realignment and the maintenance of nuclear deterrence." It also insists on the need to increase overseas dispatches of troops, which is in violation of the Constitution, including the continued deployment of Maritime Self-Defense Force units to the Indian Ocean, the establishment of a permanent law to allow Japan to send troops abroad without parliamentary approval, and the maintenance and improvement of the foundations of the defense industry and military-related technologies.

On 31 August 2009 The opposition Democratic Party, led by Yukio Hatoyama, won 308 seats in the 480-seat lower house of parliament, while the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which had been in power almost continually since 1955, secured only 119. The Democrats won on a wave of public desire for change exacerbated by the crisis in the ruling LDP, which had changed three leaders and three premiers in the last three years, and by the economic slump and growing unemployment.

On September 26, 2012 Shinzo Abe, who had served as prime minister between 2006 and 2007, was elected president of the opposition Liberal Democratic Party. In the field of five conservative candidates in the election, Abe took the hardest line, calling for revising Japanís peace Constitution to allow a full military, and supporting patriotic education that teaches a more sympathetic view of Japanís actions during World War II. Abe, who defeated ex-defense chief Shigeru Ishiba in a run-off election, could get another chance to lead Japan, if the LDP wins next election as polls suggest. The conservative leader has taken a hawkish stance against China, as well as South Korea, which are both locked in territorial disputes with Tokyo. The 58-year-old abruptly stepped down as prime minister in 2007 citing a stomach illness, in the wake of a significant election defeat.

Shigeru Ishiba, the Secretary General of the Liberal Democratic Party, said 19 October 2012 that his political organization had received donations from a South Korean national. According to reports, the LDP received 750,000 yen (about 9,500 US dollars) from a personal friend of Ishiba who operates three companies in Japan over a five year period ending in 2011. Abe selected Ishiba to serve as the party's No. 2.

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Page last modified: 27-10-2012 19:23:26 ZULU