The Shake-Up of Japanese Politics, 1993–2000

  • Richard Sims


The 1993 House of Representatives election brought to an end the long era of LDP rule, but it did not produce a shift to the Left in Japanese politics. Rather, the reverse was true. The JCP remained very much a minority party, and until 1999 its influence was further limited by its unwillingness to cooperate with most other groups (as well as by the fact that all other parties sought to distance themselves from the Communists). Much more significantly, the SDPJ saw over half its candidates defeated and lost half its representation, a catastrophe which its participation in government for the first time since 1948 only partially obscured. Admittedly its seventy seats in the House of Representatives made it the largest of the eight coalition partners, but it had a less central role in the new government than Ozawa’s Renewal Party, which, with fifty-five successful candidates out of sixty-nine, had become a more formidable force. It was the Renewal Party which most clearly embraced the mood for change demonstrated not only by the election result but also by the record level of popularity (71 per cent) initially enjoyed by the Hosokawa cabinet (which had the novelty of not only being a coalition and excluding the LDP but also including three women).


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  1. 1.
    See F. Schwartz, Advice and Consent: The Politics of Consultation in Japan, Cambridge University Press, 1998, p. 25.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    See, for example, the comments in K. Obuchi, ‘My Commitment to Political Reform’, Japan Echo, vol. 20, no. 1 (spring 1993), p. 14.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    M. Kataoka and M. Yamada, ‘Anatomy of the 1996 Lower House Election’ in H. Otake (ed.), How Election Reform Boomeranged, Japan Center for International Exchange, 1998, p. 157. Most of this paragraph is drawn from that book.Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    S. Kitaoka, ‘The Changing Dynamics of Party Politics’, Japan Echo, vol. 24, no. 1 (spring 1997), p. 16.Google Scholar
  5. 8.
    It is significant that in July 1996, three months before the LDP’s success in the House of Representatives election, an Asahi Shimbun poll found that only 26 per cent put party first in their choice of which candidate to vote for, compared with 65 per cent who emphasised personality. See S. Sato, ‘LDP Redivivus: The Failure of Electoral Reform’, Japan Echo, vol. 24, no. 1 (spring 1997), p. 21. A Yomiuri Shimbun poll in 1993 showed 41 per cent voting on the basis of the party and 49 per cent the candidate.Google Scholar
  6. 10.
    See A. Rothacher, The Japanese Power Elite, Macmillan, 1993, p. 60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 12.
    See T. Kawachi, ‘A New Backlash against American Influence’, Japan Echo, vol. 25, no. 2 (April 1998), p. 44.Google Scholar

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© Richard Sims 2001

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  • Richard Sims

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