UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!


Political Parties

09 Nov
11 Sep
30 Aug
31 Jul
16 Dec
22 Oct
31 Oct
Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) 237296 120 120294284261
New Komeito3431 2121312932
Japan Innovation Party
/ Nippon Ishin no Kai
Constitutional Democratic Party-----5596
Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ)11711329624957
People’s Life First N/AN/AN/A 47--...
Party of Hope (Kibono To)-----50...
People's New Party (PNP) N/A4 4 41-...
Social Democratic Party (SDPJ) 67 6 6221
Japan Communist Party (JCP)99 9 981210
Democratic for the People (DPP)-----811
Reiwa Shinsengumi (RS)-----13
Party fighting against NHK (PFN)-----10
Your Party-- 5518-...
Tomorrow Party----9-...
New Party Daichi-Shinminshu-- 3 31-...
Reform Group of Independents-- 44 --...
Sunrise Party of Japan-- 2 2--...
New Party Japan / Shinto NipponN/A1----...
New Party, Big Land / Shinto Daichi N/A1----...
Independents-- 9 9 5-10
MEMBERSHIP 480480480 480480480480

The five major political parties represented in the National Diet in 2008 were the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), the New Clean Government Party (Komeito), the Japan Communist Party (JCP), and the Social Democratic Party (SDP). In 1990 major opposition parties with representation in the Diet consisted of the Japan Socialist Party, the Komeito, the Japan Communist Party, and the Democratic Socialist Party (Minshato). Two smaller opposition parties were the Socialist Democratic League and the Progressive Party (Shimpoto). None had a sufficiently broad base of support to challenge the LDP at the polls, and in the early 1990s, they had not been able to form workable coalitions. An exception occurred in some local elections, where "progressive" coalitions were more effective in electing opposition candidates than on the national level.

It is widely held that 1955 was the year in which the fate of postwar politics and the economy in Japan were decided. This was the year that saw the establishment of the "1955 System," pitting conservative might against that of the reform movement, and which marked the start of Japan's rapid economic growth. The "1955 System" refers to the composition of postwar politics in Japan, a system that continued through to 1993 and saw the main government party, the Liberal Democratic Party, facing off against the leading opposition, the Socialist Party, over the issue of revising or defending the constitution.

With the exception of the period from May 1947 to March 1948, when a socialist, Katayama Tetsu, was prime minister and headed a coalition of socialists and conservatives, opposition parties failed to gain enough national electoral support to participate in forming a cabinet or to form one of their own until Hosokawa Morihiro's minority government was formed in 1993. In early 1994, the coalition government formed by Prime Minister Hosokawa Morohiro from small parties broken off from the LDP in league with the Komeito and socialist parties following the July 1993 House of representatives election remained in power. Although the LDP was still the strongest party, for the first time in nearly fifty years it found itself in the role of an opposition party.

The opposition parties were separated by ideology, with the Japan Communist Party and a significant faction of the Japan Socialist Party espousing Marxist revolution; the others were moderate and pragmatic. In many cases, the programs of the Komeito and the Democratic Socialist Party differed little from those of the LDP. Unlike the Japan Socialist Party, smaller opposition parties lacked the resources to run candidates in all the country's constituencies.

The moderate-conservative LDP was officially formed in 1955 but its roots date to the 1870's. Its diverse membership was unified by little more than a desire for an efficient government manipulating the levers of the economy and policy. But critics long complained that the LDP relied too much on money politics - buying votes with unnecessary public spending and building support from business leaders with favorable policies. Over the decades, scores of LDP politicians have been toppled when they were caught in corruption scandals too big to ignore.

On various occasions in the 1970s and 1980s, it seemed that the end of conservative power was at hand. One such time was following the Lockheed scandal of the mid-1970s (a journalist at the time described it as "conservative power self-destructs"); another was the combined furor over the 3 percent consumption tax and the Recruit scandal in 1988-89. When the LDP was pushed into the minority in the July 1989 House of Councillors election, many commentators believed that Doi Takako, chairwoman and leader of the Japan Socialist Party, was within striking distance of forming a government, probably in coalition with other opposition groups, in the upcoming, more important general election for the lower house. That this situation failed to materialize suggested not so much popular contentment with the LDP as the opposition's inability to present a viable alternative to voters.

The opposition was important if only because its existence legitimized Japan's claim to be a modern, democratic state. Moreover, the Japan Socialist Party and the Japan Communist Party played a major role in the 1950s and 1960s in protecting the democratic institutions promoted by the United States occupation. The opposition's control of more than one-third of the seats in the Diet meant that amendments revising the constitution (such as the proposed rewording or abolition of Article 9) could not be passed. If conservatives had had their way in the early postwar years, some of Japan's prewar symbols and military power would have been restored, a move that most likely would have greatly affected relations with East Asian and Southeast Asian countries, where bitter memories of Japanese wartime occupation remained fresh.

In a political system where the ruling party habitually swept embarrassing matters under the carpet and the established press club system inhibited investigative reporting, the opposition functioned reasonably well, to use film scholar Donald Richie's phrase, as "carpet picker-uppers." They exposed and demanded parliamentary investigations of scandals like the Recruit affair. Routinely, they used meetings of the Budget Committee and other committees in the Diet to question cabinet ministers and government officials, and these sessions received wide media publicity.

Ideas first proposed by the opposition, such as national health insurance and other social welfare measures, were frequently adopted and implemented by the ruling party. The "Eda Vision" of moderate socialist leader Eda Saburo in the early 1960s--"An American standard of living, Soviet levels of social welfare, a British parliamentary system, and Japan's peace constitution"--were largely realized under LDP auspices.

Although opposition control of the upper house after the July 1989 election represented a change, the opposition had little impact on the legislative process. Regulations in the Diet Law and the rules of the two houses gave presiding House of Representatives officers the power to convene plenary sessions, fix agendas, and limit debates. Because these officers were elected by the LDP majority, they used these powers to constrain opposition party activity. Although the opposition could not filibuster, the lack of a time limit for formal balloting allowed them to use the gyuho senjutsu (cow's pace tactics) to cause excruciating delays in the passage of LDP-sponsored bills, walking so slowly to cast their individual votes that the process took several hours, sorely trying the tempers of LDP Diet members.

By 2008 the DPJ had 223 total Diet members, a total that was about double the 113 elected on the DPJ ticket in the 2005 elections, reflecting massive defections from the LDP. The DPJ won a landslide victory in the 2009 general election, bringing about the first change of government in Japan under a two-party system since WWII.

The Tomorrow Party of Japan was formed at the end of November 2012, when Shiga prefecture governor Yukiko Kada joined forces with a party run by political kingpin Ichiro Ozawa, who had defected with his followers from the DPJ earlier in the year. The Tomorrow Party started out with 61 members who were up for reelection in parliament; polls showed them winning only about 10 seats.

Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list

Page last modified: 28-03-2023 13:42:55 ZULU