July 29, 2007

Japanese politics

This is my first guest piece on Henry’s blog. I would like to thank him for inviting me to post on it and hope that we all can keep the blog going while he’s away.

I wrote on my own blog about the Upper House elections that are taking place in Japan today (as folk that know me will know – am keen on looking at foreign elections and seeing what they might tell us about the politics in that country!). The Japanese mid-term elections look like they might be a defeat for the ruling LDP – which has dominated Japanese politics since its creation in 1955. However, as the Upper House is weaker than the lower one, I am not sure that the LDP will actually be blocked from carrying out many of its policies – given its Lower House majority – since the Lower House does have the constitutional power to overrule the Upper House.

In addition, it seems to me – and I wonder if those au fait with Japanese politics will be able to enlighten me on this – that the ideological differences between the opposition Democrats and the governing LDP are not that different. The Democrats are themselves a fairly-centrist catch-all party.

Prior to the 1990s and the growth of the Democrats, the main opposition party was the Social-Democrats. They did have political differences with the LDP and a different ideological view. They used to get 20-25% of the vote in most elections until the 1990s. I understand that a lot of their MPs did go over to the Democrats when they were founded, but it still seems to me strange that their support has fallen back so dramatically. If anything, the economic recession that post-1990 Japan has suffered should be making people more keen to try a different economic approach. The LDP was popular before 1990 because it presided over the dramatic economic boom of the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. When the boom ended, I would have assumed that voters would have turned to the main opposition party. Instead, it seems that voters flocked to a new party – one that does not seem to take notably different economic views from the LDP. The Social-Democrats have been reduced to less than 5% of the votes and, in fact, poll worse than the Japanese Communist Party [which has actually increased its support in some elections since the end of the Cold War].


Ashok said...

I know nothing about Japanese politics. Are there posts of yours where you talk about the policies each party has, and what seems to concern voters in Japan?

Thanks so much for bringing this topic up. Hopefully I'll learn something.

Gracchi said...

Interesting post Vino- like Ashok my command is to resume posting on this. I do think that there is soemthing fascinating about a political system where as you describe the parties don't have great distinctions in ideology- why do you think this is true