Law free essay: What explains the LDP’s long domination in Japanese politics until 2009?
What explains the LDP’s long domination in Japanese politics until 2009?
The Liberal Democratic Party has managed to maintain power in Japan for a very long period due to certain attributes that facilitated the bringing out of its strengths, the withdrawal of which is attributable to its loss of political grip in 2009. Despite the fact that the successful run is not a product of a few approaches or interventions, certain concepts of success stand out than the rest. The commonly held opinion on the success of the party revolves around three main factors variously referred to as the Iron Triangle. The party’s internal political strength represents on of the three facets of the Iron Triangle and as illustrated, various party strategies played an important part in amassing the said success. Secondly, a close link between the party leadership and structures and the business elite in the country offered a partnership based on a business model that would benefit the players and sustainability of the project offered a motivation to the partnership. Thirdly, in order to ensure that the party’s policies and initiatives provided the anticipated results, a stringent set of government rules and bureaucracy that augured well with entrenching party domination in Japanese politics for decades, with only a single ephemeral interruption. In terms of leadership, the LDP had the privilege of guidance by among the most decorated politicians that Japan can boast of, both in the past and in recent history.
LDP Political Organization
Among the most notable leaders of the party during its domination worth a mention on the contributions that they made to the party’s success include Ichiro Ozawa whose recent fall is coincidental with the party’s fall. A consistent supply of leaders to the helm of the party over the entire duration of the success ensured that the political clout needed for such a high-level organization always remained intact. The decamping of Ozawa from LDP to become the president of Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) until 2009 marked the shift of political power that was a preserve of LDP for a long time. According to Onishi (2004, para.2), the position of Ozawa as a powerful political icon acting at the highest possible level shows how the LDP was endowed with ideologists whose departure could only leave a void impossible to fill.
Perhaps the strong foundations of the party can be associated to similar strong political personalities in the party such as Kakuei Tanaka provided a rare leadership based on a centralized party politics with a strong future projection. Kakuei’s ten-year leadership in the 1960s characterizes a strong leadership-based party network. LDP leaders like Kakuei provided a populist following across the mainland Japan deep in the main vote rich areas, which acted in favor of a patronage system. By establishing sycophantic following through pleasant interaction with the electorate, Kakuei and other LPD leaders managed to stage successful governments in terms of socioeconomic development particularly noted by public works and standards of living. Government ministries under the leadership of such leaders ensured that the government was actively involved in public interaction and projects initiated throughout the year were designed to ensure that constant presence was perceived even when absent. An efficient network of strong political personalities facilitated the undisputed domination of Japanese politics by the party particularly in all vote rich areas.
One major advantage of the strong leadership at the helm of the LDP was the ability to attract specialist and technical leadership in various policy interests. As an illustration, it was possible for the party to formulate an expertly composed economics informed leadership that dealt with various challenges. Strong elite at the national bureaucratic system at the helm of LDP’s policy formulators enabled an accurate, competent, and expertly composed leadership and approach in different government tasks (Christensen 2000, p32). Almost an instant impact generated by the LDP since its ascent to Japanese political power, there were all indications that the nation was in the best possible composition of leaders and the nation was satisfied that it was in safe hands. Generation of employment opportunities particularly attracted popularity for the party, which was crowned with prosperity for the entire nation further raising the stakes for the party remaining in power for a considerable duration.
In addition, the levels of success with which LPD guided the recovery policy for Japan during the postwar setting elevated the party’s position as a household victor in national development. Early poverty situation after the end of the wars presented perhaps one of the strongest scares that the nation faced (Krauss and Pekkanen 2010, p7). LDP took it upon its core mandate to deliver economic recovery, which stands in history as among the most celebrated turnaround that facilitated its strength throughout economic difficulties in the 1960s as well as the bubble in 1980s. Success in managing national crises did not only manifest in terms of economic prowess by the LDP but also in terms of handling environmental crisis experienced in the 1970s. Despite the fact that Japan stared on the negative tag of the most polluted nation on earth following the environmental crisis in the 1970s, LDP guided the nation to deliver the best environmental legislation across the globe to deal with the challenge. Handling crises as illustrated in economic and environmental challenges shows the secret in managing challenges facing the nation as a strategy to accumulate political power.
Additionally, the electoral process in Japan during much of the control period for LDP favored the nontransferable vote multimember representation arrangement where several leaders were elected within a single district. Ordinarily, elections in such a system proceed as the usual electoral system in modern democracy where one leader represents one electoral area, but the first several candidates leading in the elections represented the district depending on the population. LDP had a clear popularity across many voting regions in Japan and traditional LDP zones had an unfair higher allocation of representatives, which gave it an advantage over rival parties. Such a case was common in the rural areas where the LDP had a strong following, which technically knocked the rivals out of the political balance. Unfairness in the political landscape of Japan ensured that the vote rich regions remained under complete control of the LDP, which was difficult to be overcome through the electoral system within a short time.
The other political domination factor for LDP emerged from the centralized fiscal system and a unitary form of state. It was possible for the LDP leadership to take advantage of the scenario and control important mobilization policies based on a popular opinion. A fine network of interaction with voters up to the grassroots level ensured that LDP worked in a campaign mode at all times. Reaching out to the voters at every corner of the country ensured that voter mobilization was efficient for LDP than for other parties. Such interactions ensured that local leadership prescribing conservative ideologies held a firm grip on the electorate, thereby assuming a manipulation impact. Influential local leaders across the vote rich areas were all under the control of the LDP, which augured well with its undivided support across the country.
Cooperation with Elite Businessmen
An astoundingly strong cooperation between the LDP administration and the private sector in Japan famously referred to as Japan Inc. enumerates the strongest ever partnership of its nature national governance. The reign of the party coincided with a long spell of Japanese dominance in global economics and the contribution of the business fraternity explains the unparalleled success by the country. An interesting observation to be made about the country in terms of business attributes associated with the businesspersons’ roles in its leadership is related to the rise in national trade. An efficient improvement in exports, which tremendously determined the national income trajectory for the entire political domination by the party, explains the ability of the powerful partnership to satisfy the Japanese electorate. In view of the trade prospects under such a partnership, the LDP government was able to expand Japanese domination in the global arena, raising its popularity and presence as a global leader in several respects. Having set a constant market for the national production capacity that was also tremendously increased in the interval, the stage was set to ensure that the partnership sold LPD’s suitability for the Japanese objectives of sustaining a global stature.
Through the business platform, LDP’s governance was able to provide economic development among ordinary Japanese through an efficient economic recovery system mitigating the impact of the World War. Cheap credit was only made available to the Japanese to spur economic development thanks to the interaction between the government and the economic powerhouse attributes were manifested. According to Colignon and Usui (2001, p866), the outcomes of separation of the iron triangle in the United States and that of a perfect fusion in Japan illustrates how national development can be achieved at the extremes of political interaction with the private sector. Apparently, the reliance of the success achieved by the national government in the fusion of the iron triangle elements in terms of economical development by LDP to entrench its domination worked as it did for national economic development. The association between national success and control of the party on governance could have been a coincidence that LDP took advantage of to gain undivided support across the country.
The performance of the national economy under the LDP gained a boost when the government obtained trade pacts with powerful markets across the world. As an illustration, the securing of trade relations with the US on a platform with no trade restrictions paved the way for Japanese economic success. According to Yosomono (2009, para.7), the success of national trade was translated as a party success across the nation, making the party one of the strongest beneficiaries of rare trade privileges extended by the US to nations. Critics of private sector contribution to LDP success always find a strong point in the international trade opportunities that any government of the day would have had, painting the party as an opportunist outfit that made away with national success to strengthen its political power.
During the entire reign of the LDP in Japan, both party and government leadership systems were organized on a parallel strict policy formulation machinery. The role of the party in national polices was almost indistinguishable from internal party functions, making it synonymous with the duly elected people’s representation. It took a long period culminating in 2009 to begin cutting the close link between the party and the government, which are separate icons in a democratic environment. Under the system of stringent bureaucratic elements in the government and the nation, it was possible for the party to plant its leadership ideologies and policies across all functions of the government, making it felt across the nation.
In view of the nature of relationship between the party politics and national government, bureaucrats within the party managed to control the entire system of governance by transposing party political ideologies in government. The party machinery and the government machinery operate separately in standard democracies where multi-party politics is practiced, but LDP flawed this practice to entrench its domination. Vested party interests in government projects ensured that the control of the future of the country was partly in the hands of the government and the party. Such a powerful position inside a world super power implied that the stature of the party was synonymous with the national position on national and global spheres. Apparently, strong government bureaucratic policies in form of party committees within government were the prerequisite environment for LDP dominance, the demise of which promises the Democratic Party of Japan a successful democratic reign. According to Airey (2012, para.4), Yukio Hatoyama’s government has set its pace in abolition of the bureaucratic nexus that the LDP established over the years in order to formulate a different regime directly functional at the government system devoid of party ties.
Despite the fact the Japanese democracy operated under a multiparty system, the bureaucratic approach elevated the party structures into national mechanisms thereby practically obscuring other arties from such political privileges. Unfair political isolation of other parties by the strong bureaucratic system made it almost impractical for relevant opposition policies to reach implementation level since party structures almost exclusively made contributions to government policy. Party interests were therefore sufficiently covered in government policy implementation, as opposed to the opposition’s chances of launching important policies. The close link between the private sector and the bureaucrats also facilitated the entrenchment of party ideologies in different business projects. Among the most affected private sector ventures, that the party and bureaucratic relations strongly thrived is the building and construction industry where national development was highly devoted to deliver. Corrupt awarding of project contracts during the reign of the LDP was a common phenomenon, making the link between party and national development a reality facing the country for a considerable long duration. As an illustration, Kakuei’s administration facilitated the sudden swelling of Japan’s public works investment from $37 billion to over $100 within a span of a ten-year reign (Hays 2010, para.7). According to the author, the direct role of the government in fixing of certain economic challenges thereby interfering with national economy was a disruption of market forces, which are beyond reach of ordinary government mechanisms.
What prospects does it (LDP) hold to return to power?
The future looks bleak for the LDP ascent to power as long as the DPJ continues to thrive in its democratic ideology that appears like a newly discovered trick in Japanese politics. Despite its awareness to introduce and reinforce reforms in the Japanese political scene, particularly towards the dramatic removal from power by DPJ, the leadership at the helm of LDP regime was unable to assure continued reforms in various government and party structures. The period prior to the end of its lengthy stay in power was characterized by relentless calls from all squares of Japanese electorate constituencies to introduce sustainable political environment. Having had a hostile environment that continued to be cultivated by the opposition, the chances of survival of the party as a dominant political powerhouse hang on the balance. The possibility of making a sudden political comeback can only be effected if the reign of the current government is terminated soon. However, relying on historical evidence, regaining of power from the opposition by LDP only worked when executed within eight months of assuming office. It therefore remains doubtful how, three years down the history line, the party can manage to outdo DPJ, which is already making tremendous popular wins for a political support across the country.
Among the most disturbing prospects of a longer isolation for the party from direct leadership in Japanese politics is the aging population of its subscribers, as opposed to a younger generation of vibrant DPJ leaders. Whereas age could not be a major factor in the short-run when determining the regaining of power from DPJ, the future sustainability of LDP as a popular political outfit across the generations remains doubtful. Future growth and potency between the two political outfits rely on indirectly proportional age of leadership, with one likely to be wiped out sooner than the other does. In line with the generation of a sustainable political trajectory for a sociopolitical development agenda, younger generations possess future domination prospects (Mishima 1998, p968).
It is correct therefore to project a difficult vibrancy analysis for the LDP. Mass exodus of members from the party into other existing parties translates to a serious political damage that cannot be rectified in the near future. Apart from strengthening traditional political outfits, the mass decamping of members also features the formation of newer parties with divergent political ideologies that can only weaken the core values of LDP as the main conservative party. In view of the double impact sustained by the mass exodus phenomena for LDP members into old rivals and new ones alike, internal weaknesses and stronger external threats imply that the party will have to fight bigger battles than it is acquitted to. Competition from rivals was well tackled in the long spell of domination due to internal strength, which has increasingly been withdrawn and directed to the rival factions.
The most iconic attributes of LDP during its lengthy reign is perhaps the tremendous economic recovery after the war and its sustainable development progress over the years. However, certain failures in the past are not entirely excluded from the discharge of its mandate as a government (Fukurai 2011, p8). Reliance on factions to provide leadership to the party has been blamed for lack of sustainable and credible leadership. Another point of weakness for the party is the basis on which prime ministers are chosen, which beats credibility logic since seniority is employed as opposed to competence. Dynastic politics plays role in LDP system of leadership, which exposes it to isolation by proponents of stronger democratic space allowing opportunity to a broader pool of leaders. The tate-wari system of leadership within the party exposes its weakness in ensuring coordination and cohesion of party agenda, with chances of duplication of duties and overemphasis in trivial duties a high probability (Japan Watching, 2009). Corruption as a secret disaster in Japan’s economy thrived within the megaprojects undertaken by the government could not be dealt with due to several players within party and government.
LDP success as a political powerhouse in Japan depended on a number of factors creating a network of interaction between bureaucracy, politics and private sector contribution in policy formulation and implementation. Reliance on the traditional vote rich regions to instigate domineering politics ensured that the party had tight grip of political following across the country. In order for the party to facilitate a lengthy political presence in national governance, elimination of completion from opposition meant introduction of unfair practices against the weaker players. Such a structure had to come to an end with due course and LDP was ousted by the DPJ in 2006, making its recovery a complicated affair to handle. In view of the political environment in Japan under the governance of the DPJ, it is doubtful that the LDP will return to its former glory of domination and unmatched power.
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