Japanese Political Reform

Essay by sgtcross74College, UndergraduateA, May 2004

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The Japanese political system at the end of the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s was characterized by an increasing number of corruption cases calling for a reform. An upsurge of public outrage that culminated in a consensus within the mass media and among a considerable number of Diet members, business leaders and bureaucrats, and the ignoring of other institutional and societal factors, resulted in the altering of the electoral system that would function as an answer for everything that was wrong with Japanese politics. These problems were expressed in the form of factionalism, the power of special interests, corruption, candidate-oriented election campaigns, Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) one-party dominance, money politics and an emphasis on personality rather than policy in voting behavior.

After the LDP failed to gain a majority in the lower-house election of 1993, Hosokawa managed to unite seven coalition parties that were committed to political reform.

In January 1994, a compromise was made with the LDP, and four reform bills were adopted by both houses of the Diet. The core of this legislation was a shift from the multimember-district system to a mixed system of regional proportional representation with 200 seats and single-member districts with 300 seats (Christensen 987). Other measures included the establishment of a neutral group to draw up the districts, bans on corporate transfers to individual politicians, and the creation of a system of state subsidies to political parties.

One of the most positive aspects of the reform package was an increased influence of urban voters on Japanese politics due to the redrawing of electoral boundaries. In addition, the legal responsibility of the Diet candidate for the illegal activities done by his supporters has been strengthened, and has contributed to a reduction of corruption. Also limits were set on private contributions to individual...