Money in Japanese politics

Regulation and reform

Authored by: Matthew Carlson

Routledge Handbook of Japanese Politics

Print publication date:  February  2011
Online publication date:  February  2011

Print ISBN: 9780415551373
eBook ISBN: 9780203829875
Adobe ISBN: 9781136818387


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Among the most significant issues in Japanese politics is money in politics—which is frequently portrayed as the problem of “money politics” (kinken seiji). For better or worse, money in politics has been a constant feature of Japan’s postwar parliamentary system and one of the most challenging issues to regulate. In the period from 1955 to 1993, which is called the “1955 system” by scholars, money flowed from big business to fill the coffers of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). Money also greased the corners of the “iron triangle”—the three-legged relationship between politicians, bureaucrats and big business, which many believe contributed to Japan’s postwar “economic miracle” (Johnson 1982). Money has been further linked to a never-ending cycle of campaign finance scandals and “structural corruption” that penetrated the entire political and economic system (Johnson 1995; Reed 1994). In 1993, the 1955 system came to an end and the following year a new electoral system and other reforms were introduced (Christensen 1996). Many hoped these reforms would remedy many of the ills associated with Japanese politics, including corruption, the high costs of elections, and one-party dominance (Carlson 2007b).

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