Japan Politics - Elections 2000-2009
Election - 25 Jun 2000
After the Liberal Party left the coalition in April 2000, Prime Minister Mori welcomed a Liberal Party splinter group, the New Conservative Party, into the ruling coalition. The three-party coalition made up of the LDP, Komeito, and the New Conservative Party maintained its majority in the Diet following the June 2000 Lower House elections.
After a turbulent year in office, Prime Minister Mori agreed to hold early elections for the LDP presidency to improve his party's chances in crucial July 2001 Upper House elections. Riding a wave of grassroots desire for change, political maverick Junichiro Koizumi won an upset victory on April 24, 2001, over former Prime Minister Hashimoto and other party stalwarts on a platform of economic and political reform.
Election - 24 April 2001
Koizumi was elected as Japan's 87th Prime Minister on April 26, 2001. The New Conservative Party dissolved in December 2002, and elements of it and defectors from the opposition DPJ formed the Conservative New Party (CNP). The CNP joined the coalition with the LDP and Komeito at its inception. Prime Minister Koizumi was re-elected as LDP President on September 20, 2003, securing a second 3-year term as Prime Minister. In autumn 2003, the Liberal Party merged with the Democratic Party of Japan, combining party identification under the DPJ name.
Election - 09 Nov 2003
In parliamentary elections held in November of 2003, the DPJ won 40 seats, bringing to 177 the total number held by the party. This result brought Japan as close as it had ever been to a two-party political system (the LDP picked up two seats in a by-election in April 2005). The DPJ's position in the Upper House improved in the July 11, 2004 election, when it won 50 seats, 12 more than its pre-election strength. The LDP coalition fared less well, winning 49 seats, one less than its pre-election strength.
On September 27, 2004, Koizumi carried out a major cabinet reorganization, dubbing his new ministerial lineup "Reform Implementation Cabinet." Key appointments included Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura, who called the U.S.-Japan alliance the "linchpin" of Japan's foreign policy while also pledging to improve ties with key Asian neighbors, including the People's Republic of China and the Republic of Korea.
Election - 11 Sep 2005
In August 2005, Koizumi dissolved the Lower House of the Diet and called for snap elections after the Upper House failed to pass his massive postal reform package. Viewed as a referendum on his leadership, Koizumi stunned even LDP party observers with the size of his victory in the landslide victory in the "postal privatization" election of 11 September 2005. With 296 seats, the LDP won a majority in the Lower House; the LDP-Komeito coalition swept 327 seats, a controlling majority that gives the Lower House considerable leeway in overriding Upper House decisions. Opposition DPJ lost 56 single-member seats and 11 proportional seats, a performance poor enough to cause DPJ president, Katsuya Okada, to resign.
Shinzo Abe was elected Prime Minister in a Diet vote in September 2006. Abe was the first prime minister to be born after World War II and the youngest prime minister since the war. However, Abe resigned abruptly on September 12, 2007, not long after the LDP lost control of the upper house in the July 2007 elections in which the LDP's handing of domestic issues was a leading issue. In elections in July 2007, the LDP lost its majority in the upper house, with the DPJ holding the largest number of seats but with no party possessing a clear majority. The LDP maintained a majority in the lower house.
Yasuo Fukuda of the LDP was elected Prime Minister by the Diet on September 25, 2007 to replace Abe. Fukuda, who suffered from low approval ratings, resigned suddenly on September 1, 2008. Former Foreign Minister Taro Aso was the victor in the subsequent LDP presidential election held on September 22, 2008, and was designated by the Diet and formally appointed by the Emperor as Japan's Prime Minister on September 24, 2008.
Election - 30 Aug 2009
Lower House elections, which decide which party or coalition can choose a prime minister to form a cabinet, are held at least every four years, and so were required to be called by September 2009. In the elections held 30 August 2009. The opposition Democratic Party, led by Yukio Hatoyama, the grandson of former premier Ichiro 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 New Komeito Party claimed 21 seats, nine for the Japanese Communist Party, seven for the Social Democratic Party, three for the People's New Party, and 13 for independents and other parties. The Democrats had won on a wave of public desire for change exacerbated by the crisis in the ruling party, which has changed three leaders and three premiers in the last three years, and by the economic slump and growing unemployment.
Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama and DPJ Secretary-General Ichiro Ozawa both resigned in June 2010 due to lingering public discontent over a political finance scandal. Minister of Finance Naoto Kan was sworn in as the new Prime Minister on June 8, 2010. The DPJ did poorly in the following upper house elections, which some within the DPJ blamed on remarks by Kan that the DPJ was considering an increase in the consumption tax. The DPJ lost its upper house coalition majority in July 2010, creating a ďtwisted DietĒ in which the two houses of parliament were led by opposing political parties.
Prime Minister Kan won a September 14, 2010 intra-party DPJ presidential election against former DPJ Secretary-General Ichiro Ozawa, with approximately 71% of the general population supporting Kan's victory according to a Nikkei newspaper poll.
Hatoyama's successor was the 33rd prime minister since Japan's World War II defeat in August 1945. By contrast, the major Western democracy usually labeled as the most unstable in terms of administration, Italy, has seen 25 men serve prime minister in that period, although several were in office for repeated non-consecutive terms. Despite the number of prime ministers, Japan remains economically and politically steadfast. Economic policy largely is under the tight control of government bureaucrats in what some economists and political analysts consider a cozy nexus with industrialists and bankers.
Prime Minister Kanís popularity, which had been sagging prior to the March 2011 earthquake, rebounded slightly in the aftermath of the earthquake but the DPJ has struggled in 2011 local elections. In early August 2011, Prime Minister Kan announced he would resign following the Dietís imminent passage of reconstruction legislation.
On August 30, 2011 Japanís parliament elected a new prime minister. The fiscal conservative of the governing left-of-center party appeared to have little support among the public. There was never any doubt about the outcome after the majority Democrats selected Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda as their new party president. The announcement was made in Japanís more powerful Lower House of Parliament. Noda became the nationís 95th prime minister. None of Nodaís five predecessors had lasted longer than 15 months.
Japanís Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda announced the makeup of the new government on 01 October that reshuffled 10 of 18 Cabinet positions. Koriki Jojima was appointed to the key post of finance minister, replacing Jun Azumi. Makiko Tanaka, who served as foreign minister in 2001-2002 in the Liberal Democratic government of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, was named education minister. Tanaka is the daughter of former prime minister Kakuei Tanaka, who oversaw the normalization of relations with China in 1972. The reshuffle was aimed at shoring up the position of Noda's Democratic Party of Japan ahead of parliamentary elections to be held before summer 2013.
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