Comparison of Japan and Russia

Essay by sheikchili November 2007

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Japan governmentAs Richard J. has mentioned in his book the government system of Japan Although many of the factors that determined Japan's change of government in the summer of 1993 were similar to those simultaneously eroding the political establishments of other advanced industrial democracies, other aspects of Japan's situation were unique. Perhaps most important is the unusually long, thirty-eight-year incumbency of the ruling LDP. This enduring rule of a single political party has led some observers to conclude that Japan's postwar government has only the superficial appearance of democracy, an appearance that camouflages its true pre-modern, despotic "Oriental" character. Although this line of argument may deserve further exploration, we identify here three less exotic factors that contributed to the LDP's longevity. The first is the greater distance in Japan between the general public on one hand and political parties, politicians, and everything concerned with politics on the other when compared with the advanced industrial democracies of the West.

This distance is illustrated perhaps best in the custom of referring to political representatives by the honorific sensei rather than simply san. The courtesy is extended commonly not only to members of the national Diet but also to all political representatives throughout the political system. In spite of their status as sensei, Japan's politicians are not expected to maintain moral or intellectual standards as high as those thought to characterize the national bureaucracy. Since the Meiji period, Japan's political representatives have remained at some distance from the general population, and this very distance has encouraged a toleration of corruption that was bred from their long-term incumbency, and insulated them from electoral retribution. The second factor that enhanced the LDP's longevity is the weakness of Japan's political opposition. This is especially true with the Social Democratic Party (formerly the Japan Socialist Party), the...