Liberal Democratic Party (Japan)

Liberal Democratic Party (Japan)

Infobox Japanese Political Party | party_name = 自由民主党
Liberal Democratic Party | party_articletitle = Liberal Democratic Party (Japan)
party_| website = [ Liberal Democratic Party (Japan)] | headquarters = 1-11-23 Nagata-cho
Chiyoda, Tokyo
Japan | president = Taro Aso
secretary = Hiroyuki Hosoda | uhouseleader = Hidehisa Otsuji | lhouseleader = Yoshinobu Shimamura | foundation = 15 November 1955 | ideology = Conservatism,
Liberal conservatism
councilor = 83
representative = 307
international = None | colours = Blue and Green (informally) | footnotes =
The nihongo|Liberal Democratic Party|自由民主党|Jiyū-Minshutō, frequently abbreviated to LDP or nihongo|"Jimintō"|自民党|, is a centre right, conservative, political party and the largest party in Japan. It has ruled for most of the years since its founding in 1955. It is not to be confused with the now-defunct nihongo|Liberal Party|自由党|Jiyūtō, which merged with the Democratic Party of Japan, the main opposition party, in November 2003 [cite web |url= |title=The Democratic Party of Japan |accessdate=2008-09-06|year=2006|publisher=Democratic Party of Japan] .

After a striking victory in the Japan general election, 2005, the LDP held an absolute majority in the Japanese House of Representatives and formed a coalition government with the New Komeito Party. Shinzo Abe succeeded then-Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi as the president of the party on 20 September 2006. The party suffered a major defeat in the election of 2007, however, and lost its majority in the upper house for the first time in its history. On 12 September 2007 Abe abruptly resigned his position as Prime Minister; he was replaced by Yasuo Fukuda. Fukuda in turn resigned on 1 September 2008, being replaced by Taro Aso.


The LDP was formed in 1955 as a party merger between Japan's two oppositional parties, the nihongo|Liberal Party|自由党|Jiyutō|1950–1955, led by Shigeru Yoshida and the nihongo|Japan Democratic Party|日本民主党|Nihon Minshutō|1954–1955, led by Ichirō Hatoyama, both right-wing conservative parties, as a united front against the then popular Japan Socialist Party. The party won the following elections, and Japan's first conservative government with a majority was formed by 1955. It would hold majority government until 1993.

The LDP began with reforming Japan's foreign affairs, ranging from entry into the United Nations, to establishing diplomatic ties with the Soviet Union. Its leaders in the 1950s also made the LDP the main government party, and in all the elections of the 1950s, the LDP won the majority vote, with the only other opposition coming from the left-wing, made up of the Japan Socialist Party and the Japanese Communist Party.

From the 1950s through the 1970s, the United States Central Intelligence Agency spent millions of dollars attempting to influence elections in Japan to favor the LDP against more leftist parties such as the Socialists and the Communists, [cite news|title=C.I.A. Spent Millions to Support Japanese Right in 50's and 60's |url= |publisher=New York Times |date=1994-10-09 |accessdate=2007-12-29] [cite web|url=|title= Foreign Relations of the United States, 1964-1968, Vol. XXIX, Part 2, Japan|publisher = United States Department of State|date=2006-07-18|accessdate=2007-12-29] although this was not revealed until the mid-1990s when it was exposed by "The New York Times". [cite journal |author=Johnson, Chalmers |title=The 1955 System and the American Connection: A Bibliographic Introduction | url= | journal=JPRI Working Paper No. 11|volume= |issue= | pages= |year=1995 ]

For the majority of the 1960s, the LDP (and Japan) were led by Eisaku Sato, beginning with the hosting of the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, and ending in 1972 with Japanese neutrality in the Vietnam War and with the beginning of the Japanese asset price bubble. By the end of the 1970s, the LDP went into its decline, where even though it held the reins of government many scandals plagued the party, while the opposition (now joined with the Komeito (Former)) gained momentum.

In 1976, in the wake of the Lockheed bribery scandals, a handful of younger LDP Diet members broke away and established their own party, the New Liberal Club (Shin Jiyu Kurabu). A decade later, however, it was reabsorbed by the LDP.

By the late 1970s, the Japan Socialist Party, the Japanese Communist Party, and the Komeito along with the international community used major pressure to have Japan switch diplomatic ties from the Republic of China to the People's Republic of China. During the 1980s, the LDP was responsible for Japan's unprecedented economic growth, and the successful economy.

By the early 1990s, the LDP's nearly four decades in power allowed it to establish a highly stable process of policy formation. This process would not have been possible if other parties had secured parliamentary majorities. LDP strength was based on an enduring, although not unchallenged, coalition of big business, small business, agriculture, professional groups, and other interests. Elite bureaucrats collaborated closely with the party and interest groups in drafting and implementing policy. In a sense, the party's success was a result not of its internal strength but of its weakness. It lacked a strong, nationwide organization or consistent ideology with which to attract voters. Its leaders were rarely decisive, charismatic, or popular. But it functioned efficiently as a locus for matching interest group money and votes with bureaucratic power and expertise. This arrangement resulted in corruption, but the party could claim credit for helping to create economic growth and a stable, middle-class Japan.

But by 1993, the end of the miracle economy and other reasons (e.g. Recruit scandal) led to the LDP losing that year's election, ending a 38-year reign over Japan. The winners, made up of opposition parties, formed a government under the liberal Japan Renewal Party.

In 1994, the Socialists and New Party Sakigake left the ruling coalition, joining the LDP in the opposition. The remaining coalition of liberal parties tried to form a make shift minority government. This collapsed in 1994, when the Japan Socialist Party (JSP) formed a majority coalition with its former arch-rival the LDP. The LDP was thus returned to power, although it allowed a Socialist to occupy the Prime Minister's chair.

By 1996, the LDP was returned to power as a majority party. The party was practically unopposed until 1998, when the opposition Democratic Party of Japan was formed. Since then the opposition has been gaining momentum, especially in the 2003 and 2004 Parliamentary Elections.

In the dramatically paced 2003 House of Representatives elections, the LDP won 237 seats, while the DPJ won 177 seats. In the 2004 House of Councillors elections, in the seats up for grabs, the LDP won 49 seats and the DPJ 50, though in all seats (including those uncontested) the LDP still had a total of 114. Because of this electoral loss, former Secretary General Shinzo Abe turned in his resignation, but Party President Koizumi merely demoted him in rank, and he was replaced by Tsutomu Takebe.

On 10 November 2003, the New Conservative Party ("Hoshu Shintō") was absorbed into the LDP, a move which was largely because of the New Conservative Party's poor showing in the 2003 general election.

Today, the LDP forms a coalition government with the conservative Buddhist New Komeito. The current party president is Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda. Former Prime Ministers Junichiro Koizumi and Shinzo Abe are also LDP members. The LDP remained the largest party in both houses of the Diet, until 29 July 2007, when the LDP lost its majority in the upper house. [cite news|author= [ Norimitsu Onishi] |coauthors= Yasuko Kamiizumi, Makiko Inoue|title=Premier's Party Suffers Big Defeat in Japan |url= |publisher=New York Times |date=2007-07-29 |accessdate=2007-07-29]

In a party leadership election held on 23 September 2007, the LDP elected Yasuo Fukuda as its President. Fukuda defeated Taro Aso for the post, receiving 330 votes against 197 votes for Aso. [ [ "Fukuda Chosen to Replace Abe as Japan's Prime Minister"] , VOA News, September 23, 2007.] [ [ "Fukuda wins LDP race / Will follow in footsteps of father as prime minister"] , "The Daily Yomiuri", September 23, 2007.]

Presidents of the LDP

With the exception of Yohei Kono, every President of the LDP has also served as Prime Minister of Japan.
# Ichiro Hatoyama (4 May 1956 – 14 December 1956)
# Tanzan Ishibashi (14 December 1956 – 21 March 1957)
# Nobusuke Kishi (21 March 1957 – 14 July 1960)
# Hayato Ikeda (14 July 1960 – 1 December 1964)
# Eisaku Sato (1 December 1964 – 5 July 1972)
# Kakuei Tanaka (5 July 1972 – 4 December 1974)
# Takeo Miki (4 December 1974 – 23 December 1976)
# Takeo Fukuda (23 December 1976 – 1 December 1978)
# Masayoshi Ohira (1 December 1978 – 12 June 1980)
# Eiichi Nishimura (12 June 1980 – 15 July 1980) (acting)
# Zenko Suzuki (15 July 1980 – 25 November 1982)
# Yasuhiro Nakasone (25 November 1982 – 31 October 1987)
# Noboru Takeshita (31 October 1987 – 2 June 1989)
# Sosuke Uno (2 June 1989 – 8 August 1989)
# Toshiki Kaifu (8 August 1989 – 30 October 1991)
# Kiichi Miyazawa (31 October 1991 – 29 July 1993)
# Yohei Kono (30 July 1993 – 30 September 1995)
# Ryutaro Hashimoto (1 October 1995 – 24 July 1998)
# Keizo Obuchi (24 July 1998 – 5 April 2000)
# Yoshiro Mori (5 April 2000 – 24 April 2001)
# Junichiro Koizumi (24 April 2001 – 26 September 2006)
# Shinzo Abe (26 September 2006 – 26 September 2007)
# Yasuo Fukuda (26 September 2007 - 22 September 2008)
# Taro Aso (22 September 2008 - Incumbent)


The LDP gains most of its support from rural conservative farmers, and it is also the established party of the bureaucracy, the famed keiretsu and white-collar workers. "New York Times" columnist Thomas Friedman, in his book "The Lexus and the Olive Tree" states that Japan under the LDP is the only country in which communism, by fact if not by name, ever worked.

On domestic policy the party is conservative. The party is the most right-wing and conservative party in Japan, and is still the most popular. Nevertheless, because of its status as the ruling party, it is marred by various special interests pushing for government patronage. The LDP has also been troubled by financial scandals.

The LDP is now struggling with their anti-terrorism platform, and they are attempting to extend the refueling mission to Pakistan in the Indian Ocean. The Democratic Party of Japan is their major opposition and is gaining control over the conflict. The DPJ is putting an end to the anti-terrorism refueling mission.

Basic principles

Unlike the leftist parties, the LDP did not espouse a well defined ideology or political philosophy. Its members held a variety of positions that could be broadly defined as being to the right of the opposition parties, yet more moderate than those of Japan's numerous rightist splinter groups. The LDP traditionally identified itself with a number of general goals: rapid, export-based economic growth; close cooperation with the United States in foreign and defense policies; and several newer issues, such as administrative reform. Administrative reform encompassed several themes: simplification and streamlining of government bureaucracy; privatization of stateowned enterprises; and adoption of measures, including tax reform, needed to prepare for the strain on the economy posed by an aging society. Other priorities in the early 1990s included promoting a more active and positive role for Japan in the rapidly developing Asia-Pacific region, internationalizing Japan's economy by liberalizing and promoting domestic demand, creating a hightechnology information society, and promoting scientific research. A business-inspired commitment to free enterprise was tempered by the insistence of important small business and agricultural constituencies on some form of protectionism and subsidies.


At the apex of the LDP's formal organization is the president (Japanese: "sosai"), who can serve two three-year terms (The presidential term was increased to three years from two years in 2002). While the party maintained a parliamentary majority, the party president was the prime minister. The choice of party president was formally that of a party convention composed of Diet members and local LDP figures, but in most cases, they merely approved the joint decision of the most powerful party leaders. To make the system more democratic, Prime Minister Takeo Fukuda introduced a "primary" system in 1978, which opened the balloting to some 1.5 million LDP members. The process was so costly and acrimonious, however, that it was subsequently abandoned in favor of the old "smoke-filled room" method.

After the party president, the most important LDP officials are the Secretary-General ("kanjicho"), and the chairmen of the LDP Executive Council ("somukaicho") and of the Policy Affairs Research Council ("seimu chosakaicho").

The LDP was the most "traditionally Japanese" of the political parties because it relied on a complex network of patron-client ("oyabun-kobun") relationships on both national and local levels. Nationally, a system of factions in both the House of Representatives and the House of Councillors tied individual Diet members to powerful party leaders. Locally, Diet members had to maintain "koenkai" (local support groups) to keep in touch with public opinion and gain votes and financial backing. The importance and pervasiveness of personal ties between Diet members and faction leaders and between citizens and Diet members gave the party a pragmatic "you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours" character. Its success depended less on generalized mass appeal than on the so-called "sanban" (three "ban"): "jiban" (a strong, well-organized constituency), "kaban" (a briefcase full of money), and "kanban" (prestigious appointment, particularly on the cabinet level).


In a sense, the LDP is not a single organization but a conglomeration of competitive factions, which, despite the traditional emphasis on consensus and harmony, engage in bitter infighting. Over the years, factions numbered from six to thirteen, with as few as four members and as many as 120, counting those in both houses. The system is operative in both houses, although it was more deeply entrenched in the House of Representatives than in the less powerful House of Councillors. Faction leaders usually are veteran LDP politicians. Many, but not all, have served as prime minister.

Faction leaders offer their followers services without which the followers would find it difficult, if not impossible, to survive politically. Leaders provide funds for the day-to-day operation of Diet members' offices and staff as well as financial support during expensive election campaigns. The operating allowances provided by the government are inadequate, even after the introduction of public funding in 1994. The leader also introduce his followers to influential bureaucrats and business people, which make it much easier for the followers to satisfy their constituents' demands.

Historically, the most powerful and aggressive faction leader in the LDP was Kakuei Tanaka, whose Mokuyo Club factions dual-house strength in the early 1980s exceeded 110. His followers remained loyal despite the fact that he had been convicted of receiving ¥500 million (nearly US$4 million) in bribes from Lockheed (the Lockheed scandal) to facilitate the purchase of its passenger aircraft by All Nippon Airways and that he had formally withdrawn from the LDP. Tanaka and his most bitter factional rival, Takeo Fukuda, were a study in contrasts. Tanaka was a roughhewn wheeler-dealer with a primary school education who had made a fortune in the construction industry; Fukuda was an elite product of the University of Tokyo Law Faculty and a career bureaucrat.

In the face of Fukuda's strong opposition, Tanaka engineered the selections of prime ministers Masayoshi Ohira (1978–80) and Zenko Suzuki (1980–82). The accession of Yasuhiro Nakasone to the prime ministership in 1982 would also not have occurred without Tanaka's support. As a result, Nakasone, at that time a politically weak figure, was nicknamed "Tanakasone." But Tanaka's faction was dealt a grave blow when one of his subordinates, Noboru Takeshita, decided to form a breakaway group. Tanaka suffered a stroke in November 1985, but four years passed before he formally retired from politics.

The LDP faction system was closely fitted to the House of Representatives' medium-sized, multiple-member election districts. The party usually ran more than one candidate in each of these constituencies to maintain its lower house majority, and these candidates were from different factions. During an election campaign, the LDP, in a real sense, ran not only against the opposition but also against itself. In fact, intraparty competition within one election district was often more bitter than interparty competition, with two or more LDP candidates vying for the same block of conservative votes. For example, in the House of Representatives election of February 18, 1990, three LDP and three opposition candidates competed for five seats in a southwestern prefecture. Two of the LDP candidates publicly expressed bitterness over the entry of the third, a son of the prefectural governor. Local television showed supporters of one of the LDP candidates cheering loudly when the governor's son was edged out for the fifth seat by a Komeito candidate.

There are currently five major factions in the LDP. While most factions have official titles, in the Japanese media they are usually referred to by the names of their current leaders. From most to least powerful, they are:

"Seiwa Seisaku Kenkyūkai" (Machimura Faction)

Led by ex-Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura. Founded by Takeo Fukuda in 1962. It is a pro-classical economics and conservative faction. Former Prime Minister and Party President Shinzo Abe belonged to this faction. His deceased father Shintaro Abe was an ex-leader of this faction (1986 – 1991). Ex-Prime Ministers Junichiro Koizumi and Yoshiro Mori also formerly led the faction. As of 2004 it has overtaken the Hashimoto faction in the more powerful Lower House, but it continues to trail in total number of members in both houses combined. It currently holds 51 seats in the Lower House and 23 seats in the Upper House.

"Heisei Kenkyūkai" (Tsushima Faction)

The current chairman is Yuji Tsushima since September 2005. Formerly led by Ex-PM Ryutaro Hashimoto. The Tsushima faction was preceded by the Takeshita Faction of Noboru Takeshita. The faction's "de facto" leader is now Upper House member Mikio Aoki. It is a Keynesian and pro-China faction. It has strong influence on bureaucrats. Ex-PM Hashimoto and the entire faction were recently hit with a scandal where the faction had apparently taken money from the Japan Dental Association. Hashimoto resigned as chairman of the faction in 2004 and retired from politics the following year. Possible replacements included Kosuke Hori, Fumio Kyuma, Takao Fujii, and Fukushiro Nukaga. It currently has 48 seats in the Lower House and 29 seats in the Upper House. It is split with members who support Mr. Koizumi and those who do not. There are more supporting Mr. Koizumi. Because it has been the largest in numbers, the accusation of influence peddling and pork-barrel politics is rife. It is a descendant of the Tanaka faction.

"Shisuikai" (Ibuki Faction)

Led by Bunmei Ibuki. After one member of this faction committed suicide at the beginning of August 2005 it has 27 seats in the Lower House and 18 seats in the Upper House. It is considered by many to be the most right-wing grouping among the major factions. This faction has effectively been dissolved since Kamei and other members left the party to establish the People's New Party in opposition to the postal privatisation bills.

"Kōchikai" (Koga Faction)

The current chairman is Makoto Koga. Mitsuo Horiuchi was co-leader until he temporarily left the faction in October 2006. It currently has 32 seats in the Lower House and 14 seats in the Upper House. This group was under the leadership of Koichi Kato until a split in 2001. It is more conservative and critical to Mr. Koizumi, and more successful than the section led by Kato. This faction historically has been the most prestigious faction, with many of its members drawn from the upper-ranks of the elite bureaucracy.

"Kōchikai" (Tanigaki Faction)

Led by Sadakazu Tanigaki. It was led by Koichi Kato until 2002, when Kato temporarily quit the Diet over a financial scandal surrounding his personal secretary. Kato was leader of the united Kochikai (including the wing now led by Horiuchi) until 2001, when the Kato Faction split after Kato had staged a failed rebellion against then-Prime Minister Mori Yoshiro. It has 12 seats in the Lower House and 4 seats in the Upper House.

"Kinmirai Seiji Kenkyūkai" (Yamasaki Faction)

Led by Taku Yamasaki. It has 24 seats in the Lower House and 5 seats in the Upper House.

"Banchō Seisaku Kenkyūjo" (Komura Faction)

Led by Masahiko Komura. It has 12 seats in the Lower House and 2 seats in the Upper House.

"Taiyūkai" (Kono Faction)

Formerly led by Yohei Kono, who is now Speaker of the House of Representatives. Once part of the former Kato faction, though this group split off during the mid-1990s. It has 9 seats in the Lower House and 1 seat in the Upper House. It is more critical to Koizumi and more reformist. It is now known as the Former Kono Faction because the resignation of the faction chief and the inability of the faction to decide on a new leader.

"Atarashii Nami" 'New Wave' (Nikai Faction)

Led by Toshihiro Nikai. It includes members of the former New Conservative Party, which was dissolved in 2003. It is one of the most right-wing groups in the LDP. It has 4 seats in the Lower House and 2 seats in the Upper House.

Unaffiliated diet members

There are 25 factionally unaffiliated LDP members in the Lower House and 17 in the Upper House.

Performance in National Elections until 1993

"see:" Elections in Japan

Election statistics show that, while the LDP had been able to secure a majority in the twelve House of Representatives elections from May 1958 to February 1990, with only three exceptions (December 1976, October 1979, and December 1983), its share of the popular vote had declined from a high of 57.8 percent in May 1958 to a low of 41.8 percent in December 1976, when voters expressed their disgust with the party's involvement in the Lockheed scandal. The LDP vote rose again between 1979 and 1990. Although the LDP won an unprecedented 300 seats in the July 1986 balloting, its share of the popular vote remained just under 50 percent. The figure was 46.2 percent in February 1990. Following the three occasions when the LDP found itself a handful of seats shy of a majority, it was obliged to form alliances with conservative independents and the breakaway New Liberal Club. In a cabinet appointment after the October 1983 balloting, a non-LDP minister, a member of the New Liberal Club, was appointed for the first time. In the 18 July 1993, lower house elections, the LDP fell so far short of a majority that it was unable to form a government.

In the upper house, the July 1989 election represented the first time that the LDP was forced into a minority position. In previous elections, it had either secured a majority on its own or recruited non-LDP conservatives to make up the difference of a few seats.

The political crisis of 1988–89 was testimony to both the party's strength and its weakness. In the wake of a succession of issues — the pushing of a highly unpopular consumer tax through the Diet in late 1988, the Recruit insider trading scandal, which tainted virtually all top LDP leaders and forced the resignation of Prime Minister Takeshita Noboru in April (a successor did not appear until June), the resignation in July of his successor, Uno Sosuke, because of a sex scandal, and the poor showing in the upper house election — the media provided the Japanese with a detailed and embarrassing dissection of the political system. By March 1989, popular support for the Takeshita cabinet as expressed in public opinion polls had fallen to 9 percent. Uno's scandal, covered in magazine interviews of a "kiss and tell" geisha, aroused the fury of female voters.

Yet Uno's successor, the eloquent if obscure Kaifu Toshiki, was successful in repairing the party's battered image. By January 1990, talk of the waning of conservative power and a possible socialist government had given way to the realization that, like the Lockheed affair of the mid-1970s, the Recruit scandal did not signal a significant change in who ruled Japan. The February 1990 general election gave the LDP, including affiliated independents, a comfortable, if not spectacular, majority: 275 of 512 total representatives.

In October 1991, Prime Minister Kaifu Toshiki failed to attain passage of a political reform bill and was rejected by the LDP, despite his popularity with the electorate. He was replaced as prime minister by Miyazawa Kiichi, a long-time LDP stalwart. Defections from the LDP began in the spring of 1992, when Hosokawa Morihiro left the LDP to form the Japan New Party. Later, in the summer of 1993, when the Miyazawa government also failed to pass political reform legislation, thirty-nine LDP members joined the opposition in a no-confidence vote. In the ensuing lower house election, more than fifty LDP members formed the Shinseito and the Sakigake parties, denying the LDP the majority needed to form a government.

ee also

*Politics of Japan
*List of political parties in Japan
*History of Japan
*New Komeito
*Liberal conservatism
*Junichiro Koizumi
*Shinzo Abe
*Japan general election, 2003
*Japan upper house election, 2004
*Japan general election, 2005
*Sanctuary, by Sho Fumimura and Ryoichi Ikegami


*loc – [ Japan]

External links

*en icon [ The official website of Liberal Democratic Party]

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