Dokodemo Door!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Meet the new boss; same as the old boss

There has been quite a bit of attention paid to the fact that a general election is going to be held here on August 30th, and the most likely results will not bode well for the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). Taro Aso, the extremely unpopular Prime Minister, dissolved the House of Representatives on July 21st.

I should say here that I've read quite a lot about the Japanese political system and, let me tell you, learning anything more than the basics is probably a waste of time. The LDP itself is divided into six or seven factions, all of which crystalize around key personalities who are skilled at raising money. The ministries which carry out policies are insulated from the elected politicians anyway, so any change in the controlling party will be largely cosmetic.

Nonetheless, this election is notable only because the LDP is probably going to be voted-out of power for the second time in its history. The LDP was a coalition of conservative parties which was put-together in the mid-50s (with a teeny bit of help from CIA money). Since then, it has held government the entire time, with the exception of mid-1993, when it lost its parliamentary majority after a series of graft cases. It may be instructive to look at what happened the last time.

What had been the largest opposition party for 40 years, the Social Democratic Party of Japan (SDP), gained the prime ministership. It subsequently abandoned all of its previous ideological positions. The LDP, of course, had decades to hard-wire a bunch of structural advantages in elections, such as fundraising and the shape of electoral districts. The SDP was defeated when the LDP won elections in 1998 in a coalition with other, minor conservative parties.

Since then, many of the remnants of the SDP formed the Democratic Party of Japan, what is most likely to comprise the new majority at the end of August. You can sort of predict what's going to happen next. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose...


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home