AAS Annual Meeting

Japan Session 746

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Session 746: Power Shift in 2009 and the Democratic Party of Japan

Organizer: Hironori Sasada, Ritsumeikan University, Japan

Discussants: Hironori Sasada, Ritsumeikan University, Japan; Mikitaka Masuyama, Independent Scholar, Japan

After a half century of one-party dominance by the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) finally defeated the LDP and seized power. What allowed the DPJ to come to power in 2009? Also, how is the DPJ managing the administration and making policies after the power shift? This panel will discuss the reasons behind the dramatic power shift and the changes after that from the view point of party organization. The first paper tries to explain the link between power concentration within the party and the party’s policy stances. The second paper discusses the party’s decision-making process and internal structure focusing on the distribution of important posts in the Diet, party, and cabinet. The third paper analyzes how those changes within the party and government would affect the policymaking process.

Alternative Paths to Party Polarization: A Case of Japan
Hironori Sasada, Ritsumeikan University, Japan

What makes party politics polarized? This study attempts to analyze this puzzle comparatively. Party polarization is one of the current focal points in the study of American politics, and the common understanding is that party polarization is caused by decentralized candidate selection through primary election, which strengthened the power of radical interest groups [the divisive primary hypothesis]. The issue of party polarization has not, however, widely studied in the field of comparative politics, and the generalizablity of the finding of American politics has not been tested. The primary goals of our study are to comparatively analyze the mechanism of party polarization and demonstrate that there are multiple paths to party polarization. Our comparative study of party polarization in the U.S. and Japan pays a close attention to two factors including party’s structure and strategies. Our main arguments are the following: While decentralized nature of American parties facilitated party polarization in the U.S., Japanese parties are recently exhibiting signs of polarization, although party structure is becoming increasingly centralized. The key to explain party polarization in Japan is party leaders’ strategy. Though centralized party structure weakened the influence of radical interest groups, Japanese party leaders are adopting a more confrontational approach than before deviating from the Downs theorem. It is because highly uncertain and rapidly changing political conditions made them believe that their parties need to advocate policies that are substantially different from those of opposing parties to attract voters who are largely unsatisfied with existing policies.

Legislative Organization of the Democratic Party of Japan
Naofumi Fujimura, Kobe University, Japan

In September 2009, the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) won office, ending more than the half a century rule by the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in Japan. Accordingly, important posts in the Cabinet and the Diet are assumed by DPJ legislators. This article aims to clarify how a party designs legislative organization in order to seek votes, office, and policies and how post assignment systems differ according to political institutions by examining the DPJ’s post assignment systems under the combination of singe-member districts and proportional representation in light of the LDP’ systems established under the former multi-member district system. The analysis demonstrates that the DPJ has an interfactional balancing rule and a seniority rule also employed by the LDP since both rules can contribute to the maintenance of party unity beyond institutional conditions. In contrast, the DPJ allocates all key posts to electorally strong legislators to increase votes contrary to an opposite manner by the LDP since the DPJ is based on party-centered electoral campaigns but the LDP is based on candidate-centered campaigns.

Policy Changes in the DPJ Government
Yusuke Murakami, Japan Womens University, Japan

In 2009, the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) won political office. After taking power, the DPJ is seemingly trying to establish the politician-led decision-making style such as creating the National Policy Unit, the Committee of Ministers, the Meeting of a Minister, Senior Vice-Ministers, and Vice-Ministers and abolishing the Meeting of Administrative Vice-Ministers. Though these reforms, the DPJ seeks to build the top-down style between the government and the ruling party and ensure the control over the bureaucracy between the politicians and bureaucrats. It can be that the DPJ’s politician-led centralized decision-making style derives from the party’s centralized structures. This presentation, by focusing educational policies, aims to see how the DPJ’s new style is working and how this style affects policy outcomes.