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Japan Politics - Elections 1990s

The post-World War II years saw tremendous economic growth in Japan, with the political system dominated by the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). 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 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 1989 (a successor did not appear until June 1989), the resignation in July 1989 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 these scandals 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.

Election - 18 Jul 1993

That total domination lasted until the Diet lower house elections in July 1993, in which the LDP failed for the first time to win a majority. The LDP returned to power in 1994, with majorities in both houses of the Diet.

A key highlight of the 1993-1994 transformation from LDP rule to coalition government was the change of the electoral system. It did away with the multi-member districts and now 300 seats of the 500 seat Diet are elected using single-member, vote for the candidate, "winner take all" districts. The remaining 200 seats are filled by people elected under a regional proportional representation system. For these seats, voters cast one vote for the party not the candidate.

In April 1994, Prime Minister Hosokawa resigned. Prime Minister Tsutomu Hata formed the successor coalition government, Japan's first minority government in almost 40 years. Prime Minister Hata resigned less than 2 months later. Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama formed the next government in June 1994, a coalition of his Japan Socialist Party (JSP), the LDP, and the small Sakigake Party. The advent of a coalition containing the JSP and LDP surprised many observers because of their previously fierce rivalry. Prime Minister Murayama served until January 1996, when he was succeeded by Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto.

Election - 20 Oct 1996

Japan's Liberal Democratic Party, voted out of power in 1993 after a number of scandals, came back into power after general elections on 20 October 1996. The vote produced the lowest turnout for Japanese elections since World War II, with fewer than 60 percent of the country's 98 million registered voters going to the polls. The Liberal Democratic Party won the most seats in the lower house of Parliament, but not a full majority. Hashimoto headed a loose coalition of three parties until July 1998, when he resigned due to a poor electoral showing by the LDP in Upper House elections. Hashimoto was succeeded as LDP President and Prime Minister by Keizo Obuchi, who took office on July 30, 1998.

The LDP formed a governing coalition with the Liberal Party in January 1999, and Keizo Obuchi remained prime minister. The LDP-Liberal coalition expanded to include the Komeito Party in October 1999. Prime Minister Obuchi suffered a stroke in April 2000 and was replaced by Yoshiro Mori.

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Page last modified: 29-12-2012 19:34:52 ZULU