The influence of voters

Authored by: Sherry L. Martin

Routledge Handbook of Japanese Politics

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

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

10.4324/9780203829875.ch8

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Abstract

Japanese voters kicked the long-dominant Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) out of power in the August 2009 House of Representatives election. Alternation in power was achieved through the ballot box for the first time in 55 years 1 when the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) won 308 of 480 Lower House seats. The LDP’s loss was much anticipated and a long time in the making. Over the course of the last decade and a half, a period that spans electoral reform, a prolonged recession and widening income inequality, and an intensification of socio-demographic trends that threaten the long-term viability of the social welfare state, political observers offered numerous explanations to account for how and why the LDP managed to retain its hold on power despite its unpopularity with voters. Primary among them was the durability of the LDP as a vote-collecting machine. Long-term dominance provided the LDP a monopoly over state resources which it used to distribute material benefits to supporters in exchange for their votes (see Scheiner 2006). The LDP was deeply entrenched, protected by structural conditions that undermined voters’ ability to influence electoral outcomes and political decision making. The 2009 elections suggest that a new mode of interest articulation is emerging in contemporary Japanese politics.

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