Three periods of Japanese
1945-55 – immediate postwar period;
1955-93 – “1955 system”;
1994 – present – post-political reform period.
The 1955 system was characterized by LDP dominance,
economic growth and a cohesive and powerful
An overview of the institutions that prevailed under
the 1955 system,
A description of the political and administrative
reforms enacted in the 1990s and a brief discussion
how these reforms have influenced politicians,
political parties, the prime minister, the bureaucracy
and the policymaking process.
• The institutions of the “1955 system”
The prime minister;
The electoral system;
Political funding and electioneering;
• Political reform in the 1990s;
• The effect of political reform
National Diet – Japanese legislative body;
Article 41 of the constitution – the Diet “shall be the
highest organ of state power, and shall be be the
sole law-making organ of the State”.
4 year term, more
frequently serves less
than four years
6 year term, with half
members elected every
Ultimate control of the passage of
the budget, the ratification of
treaties and the selection of the
After 1989 to block regular
legislation outside the budget
The prime minister
Formal powers: The head of the cabinet, has the power
to appoint and dismiss the cabinet ministers, is granted
the support of the cabinet secretariat, and has the power
to dissolve the Lower House of the Diet and call for new
Informal powers, including the prime minister`s support
base in the party, popularity, influence over the
bureaucracy, ties to the opposition parties, and
The electoral system
1955 system – the electoral system for Lower House
was a multiple-member district system with a single
nontransferable vote (MMD/SNTV) – multipartyism
with one dominant party, the LDP.
The disadvantages - made it more difficult for parties
to run the “right” number of candidates and divide the
vote equally among them => over- nomination and
1983 – from MMD/SNTV to proportional
representation (PR) list => to make the
contests more party-centered, but
increased competition for party list
2000 – from PR to an open list system
which allows voters to select either or
party or individual candidate in the PR
Political funding and
A limited number of television and
radio appearance, a certain
number of handbills and posters,
internet is a medium
accommodated by the
Policy forced the voter to rely on
web information from unofficial
1975 - the revision of PFCL
(Political Funds Control)
Created an upper limit on
contributions from corporations
Amount of corporations and
individual contributions were
restricted, but the number of
political organizations that could
receive donations was not.
1950-60 – one and half party system;
1970 – one party system with multipartyism;
1990 – electoral reform
LDP ( Liberal Democratic Party) – is the conservative party, less
ideologically driven. Main goal - to stay in power.
Support base (1955) – farmers and rural communities, industry/corporate
Japan, small business, construction and self-employed.
One of the main reasons the LDP was able to stay in power from 1955-93
was its ability to adjust its policies in response to new economic and
politic realities, “crisis and compensation” strategy.
JSP (Japan Socialist Party) – was the progressive party on the left
with strong ties to public sector union.
Support base – public service labor unions, small business,
professionals, intellectuals and farmers.
DSP (1960) – exclusive worker support and creating a broader base.
Main support – private sector. Dissolved in 1994.
The Komeito or CGP – political arm of Buddhist lay organization, to
promote “cleaner”, less corrupt politics. Supported world peace,
humanitarian socialism, progressive taxes and the nationalization of key
industries. Base – women, youth and underclass.
JSP – most ideological party, extreme left informed by Marxism-
Leninism. Base – women, youth, doctors, lawyers, nontraditional
supporters of Communist parties.
Political reform in the 1990s
Electoral system and political funding reform – revision to the
Public Office Election Law replaced the MMD/SNTV system
with a combined single-member district (SMD) and proportional
representation (PR) system;
Diet related administrative reform – 1) eliminated the
government committee member system, 2) created senior vice-
ministers and parliamentary secretaries;
Central government reforms – to increase the efficiency,
accountability and transparency of government agencies.
The effects of political reform
weaken incentives for pork barrel politics;
the reduction of money politics and corruption;
combined electoral system allowed new party arrangements;
changes in the internal organization of parties;
the cabinet reform have increased the potential influence of prime
the Diet-related reforms increased the power of politicians vis-à-vis
reduced the role of bureaucrats