Democratic Party of Japan


The Democratic Party of Japan (民主党, Minshutō) was a centrist[2] to centre-left[3][4] liberal[5] or social-liberal[6] political party in Japan from 1998 to 2016.

Democratic Party of Japan
LeaderKatsuya Okada
Secretary-GeneralYukio Edano
FoundersNaoto Kan
Yukio Hatoyama
Tsutomu Hata
Founded27 April 1998 (1998-04-27)
Dissolved27 March 2016 (2016-03-27)
Merger of
Succeeded byDemocratic Party (2016)
Headquarters1-11-1 Nagata-cho, Chiyoda, Tokyo 100-0014
IdeologyLiberalism (Japanese)
Social liberalism
Political positionCentre to centre-left
International affiliationAlliance of Democrats (2005–2012)
Colors  Red[1]

The party's origins lie in the previous Democratic Party of Japan, which was founded in September 1996 by politicians of the centre-right and centre-left with roots in the Liberal Democratic Party and Japan Socialist Party.[7] In April 1998, the previous DPJ merged with splinters of the New Frontier Party to create a new party which retained the DPJ name.[8] In 2003, the party was joined by the Liberal Party of Ichirō Ozawa.[4]

Following the 2009 election, the DPJ became the ruling party in the House of Representatives, defeating the long-dominant Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and gaining the largest number of seats in both the House of Representatives and the House of Councillors. The DPJ was ousted from government by the LDP in the 2012 general election. It retained 57 seats in the lower house, and still had 88 seats in the upper house. During its time in office, the DPJ was beset by internal conflicts and struggled to implement many of its proposed policies, an outcome described by political scientists Phillip Lipscy and Ethan Scheiner as the "paradox of political change without policy change".[9] Legislative productivity under the DPJ was particularly low, falling to levels unprecedented in recent Japanese history according to some measures.[10] However, the DPJ implemented a number of progressive measures during its time in office such as the provision of free public schooling through high school, increases in child-rearing subsidies,[11] expanded unemployment insurance coverage,[12] extended duration of a housing allowance,[13] and stricter regulations safeguarding part-time and temporary workers.[14]

On 27 March 2016 the DPJ merged with the Japan Innovation Party and Vision of Reform to form the Democratic Party (Minshintō), which in turn merged with the Party of Hope to form the Democratic Party for the People.[15]

It is not to be confused with the now-defunct Japan Democratic Party that merged with the Liberal Party in 1955 to form the Liberal Democratic Party. It is also different from another Democratic Party, which was established in 1947 and dissolved in 1950.

History edit

Beginnings edit

Headquarters of the Democratic Party of Japan

The Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) was formed on 27 April 1998.[16] It was a merger of four previously independent parties that were opposed to the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP)—the previous Democratic Party of Japan, the Good Governance Party (民政党, Minseitō), the New Fraternity Party (新党友愛, Shintō-Yūai), and the Democratic Reform Party (民主改革連合, Minshu-Kaikaku-Rengō). The previous parties ranged in ideology from conservative to social-democratic.[7] The new party began with ninety-three members of the House of Representatives and thirty-eight members of the House of Councilors. Moreover, the party officials were elected as well at the party convention for the first time; Naoto Kan, former Health and Welfare Minister was appointed as the president of the party and Tsutomu Hata, former prime minister as secretary-general.

On 24 September 2003 the party formally merged with the small, centre-right Liberal Party led by Ichirō Ozawa[17] in a move largely considered in preparation for the 2003 general election held on 9 November 2003. This move immediately gave the DPJ eight more seats in the House of Councilors.

In the 2003 general election the DPJ gained a total of 178 seats. This was short of their objectives, but nevertheless a significant demonstration of the new group's strength. Following a pension scandal, Naoto Kan resigned and was replaced with moderate liberal Katsuya Okada.

In the 2004 House of Councilors elections, the DPJ won a seat more than the ruling Liberal Democrats, but the LDP still maintained its firm majority in total votes. This was the first time since its inception that the LDP had garnered fewer votes than another party.

The 2005 snap parliamentary elections called by Junichiro Koizumi in response to the rejection of his Postal privatization bills saw a major setback to the DPJ's plans of obtaining a majority in the Diet. The DPJ leadership, particularly Okada, had staked their reputation on winning the election and driving the LDP from power. When the final results were in, the DPJ had lost 62 seats, mostly to its rival the LDP. Okada resigned the party leadership, fulfilling his campaign promise to do so if the DPJ did not obtain a majority in the Diet. He was replaced by Seiji Maehara in September 2005.

However, Maehara's term as party leader lasted barely half a year. Although he initially led the party's criticism of the Koizumi administration, particularly in regards to connections between LDP lawmakers and scandal-ridden Livedoor, the revelation that a fake email was used to try and establish this link greatly damaged his credibility. The scandal led to the resignation of Representative Hisayasu Nagata and of Maehara as party leader on 31 March.[18] New elections for party leader were held on 7 April, in which Ichirō Ozawa was elected president.[19] In Upper House election 2007, the DPJ won 60 out of 121 contested seats, with 49 seats not up for re-election.

2009–2012 government edit

DPJ winning the 2009 general election

Ozawa resigned as party leader in May 2009 after a fundraising scandal and Yukio Hatoyama succeeded Ozawa before the August 2009 general election,[16] at which the party swept the LDP from power in a massive landslide, winning 308 seats (out of a total of 480 seats), reducing the LDP from 300 to 119 seats[20][21] – the worst defeat for a sitting government in modern Japanese history. This was in marked contrast to the closely contested 1993 general election, the only other time the LDP has lost an election. The DPJ's strong majority in the House of Representatives assured that Hatoyama would be the next prime minister to replace Tarō Asō, leader of the LDP. Hatoyama was nominated on September 16 and formally appointed later that day by Emperor Akihito in the Tokyo Imperial Palace and formed his Cabinet.

However, the DPJ did not have a majority in the House of Councillors, which was not contested at the election, and fell just short of the 320 seats (a two-thirds majority) needed to override the upper chamber's veto power. Hatoyama was thus forced to form a coalition government with the Social Democratic Party and the People's New Party to ensure their support in the House of Councillors.[22]

On 2 June 2010, Hatoyama announced his resignation before a party meeting and officially resigned two days later. He cited breaking a campaign promise to close an American military base on the island of Okinawa Prefecture as the main reason for the move. On 28 May 2010, soon after and because of increased tensions after the possible sinking of a Korean ship by North Korea,[23] Hatoyama had made a deal with U.S. President Barack Obama[24][25][26][27][28] to retain the base for security reasons, but the deal was unpopular in Japan. He also mentioned money scandals involving a top party leader, Ozawa, who resigned as well, in his decision to step down.[24] Hatoyama had been pressured to leave by members of his party after doing poorly in polls in anticipation of the July upper house election.[29] Naoto Kan succeeded Hatoyama as the next President of DPJ and Prime Minister of Japan.[30]

At the July 2010 House of Councillors election, the DPJ lost ten seats and their coalition majority. Prior to the election Kan raised the issue of an increase to Japan's 5 per cent consumption tax in order to address the country's rising debt. This proposal, together with Ozawa and Hatoyama's scandals, was viewed as one of the causes for the party's poor performance in the election. The divided house meant the government required the cooperation of smaller parties including Your Party and the Communist Party to ensure the passage of legislation through the upper house.[31]

Ozawa challenged Kan's leadership of the DPJ in September 2010. Although Ozawa initially had a slight edge among DPJ members of parliament, local rank-and-file party members and activists overwhelmingly supported Kan, and according to opinion polls the wider Japanese public preferred Kan to Ozawa by as much as a 4–1 ratio.[32] In the final vote by DPJ lawmakers Kan won with 206 votes to Ozawa's 200.[33]

After the leadership challenge, Kan reshuffled his cabinet and removed many prominent members of the pro-Ozawa faction from important posts in the new cabinet.[34] The cabinet reshuffle also resulted in the promotion of long-time Kan ally Yoshito Sengoku to Chief Cabinet Secretary, who the LDP labeled as the "second" Prime Minister of the Kan cabinet.[35]

In September 2010 the government intervened to weaken the surging yen by buying U.S. dollars, a move which temporarily relieved Japan's exporters.[36] The move proved popular with stock brokers, Japanese exporters, and the Japanese public.[36] It was the first such move by a Japanese government since 2004.[36] Later, in October, after the yen had offset the intervention and had reached a 15-year high, the Kan cabinet approved a stimulus package worth about 5.1 trillion yen ($62 billion) in order to weaken the yen and fight deflation.[37]

2012–2016 return to opposition and dissolution edit

On 24 February 2016, the DPJ announced an agreement to merge with the smaller Japan Innovation Party (JIP) and Vision of Reform ahead of the Upper House elections in the summer,[38][39] with a merger at a special convention agreed for 27 March.[40] On 4 March 2016, the DPJ and JIP asked supporters for suggestions for a name for the new party.[41] On 14 March 2016 the name of the new party was announced as Minshintō, having been the most popular choice of possible names polled among voters.[42][43] With the addition of Representatives form Vision of Reform, the DPJ and JIP merged to form the Democratic Party on 27 March 2016.[44][45]

The dissolution of the DPJ is mainly attributed to the fact that the reforms that the DPJ advocated for were hard to put into place because of electoral restrictions, economic restrictions, and the fact that the reforms that would reduce the power of the bureaucracy would help deprive the DPJ of the power to implement their other reforms. Other factors that affected the dissolution of the party were the internal conflicts that paralyzed the DPJ and the fact that the DPJ aligned itself with the foreign policy of the LDP.[10]

Ideology edit

The Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) called their philosophy 'Democratic Centrism [ja]' (民主中道, minshu-chūdō), which was determined in the first party convention on 27 April 1998.[46][47] DPJ is generally classified as a centrist party, but it is also classified as a centre-left in the context of Japanese politics in contrast to the LDP.[3][4]

The DPJ aimed to create a platform broad enough to encompass the views of politicians who had roots in either the Liberal Democratic Party or Japan Socialist Party.[8] Party leader Naoto Kan compared the DPJ to the Olive Tree alliance of former Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi, and described his view that it needed to be "the party of Thatcher and Blair".[8] The DPJ had both conservative and social-democratic elements.[48] Because of this position, the DPJ has often been designated as a big tent party.[49]

View of the status quo edit

The DPJ claimed themselves to be revolutionary in that they are against the status quo and the current governing establishment. The DPJ argued that the bureaucracy and the size of the Japanese government is too large, inefficient, and saturated with cronies and that the Japanese state is too conservative and inflexible. The DPJ wanted to "overthrow the ancient régime locked in old thinking and vested interests, solve the problems at hand, and create a new, flexible, affluent society which values people's individuality and vitality."[50]

Political standpoint edit

We stand for those who have been excluded by the structure of vested interests, those who work hard and pay taxes, and for people who strive for independence despite difficult circumstances. In other words, we represent citizens, taxpayers, and consumers. We do not seek a panacea either in the free market or in the welfare state. Rather, we shall build a new road of the democratic center toward a society in which self-reliant individuals can mutually coexist and the government's role is limited to building the necessary systems.[50]

Goals edit

Democratic Centrism pursued the following five goals.[50]

  • Transparent, just and fair society
The Democratic Party sought to build a society governed with rules which are transparent, just and fair.
  • Free market and inclusive society
While the party argued that the free market system should "permeate" economic life, they also aim for an inclusive society which guarantees security, safety, and fair and equal opportunity for each individual.
  • Decentralized and participatory society
The party intended to devolve the centralized government powers to citizens, markets, and local governments so that people of all backgrounds can participate in decision-making.
The Democratic Party proclaimed to hold the values in the meaning of the constitution to "embody the fundamental principles of the Constitution": popular sovereignty, respect for fundamental human rights, and pacifism.[50]
  • International relations based on self-reliance and mutual coexistence
As a member of the global community, the party sought to establish Japan's international relations in the fraternal spirit of self-reliance and mutual coexistence to restore the world's trust in the country.[50]

Policy platforms edit

The DPJ's policy platforms included the restructuring of civil service, monthly allowance to a family with children (¥26,000 per child), cut in gas tax, income support for farmers, free tuition for public high schools, banning of temporary work in manufacturing,[51] raising the minimum-wage to ¥1,000 and halting of increase in sales tax for the next four years.[52][53]

The DPJ's stance on nuclear power was that steady steps should be taken towards nuclear power, but not too quickly as to possibly endanger safety.[54]

Structure edit

Factions edit

The DPJ had some political factions or groups, although they were not as factionalized as the LDP, which has traditionally placed high priority on intra-party factional alignment. The groups were, the most influential to the least influential:

  • Ryōun-kai (lit. 'Transcendent Association'): the second most conservative faction. Most of its members were from the New Party Sakigake. Ryoun-kai had about 40 seats in the assembly and was led by Seiji Maehara and Yoshihiko Noda.[55]
  • Seiken kōyaku wo Jitsugen suru kai (lit. 'Association for the Realization of Political Promises'): formed by defectors from LDP and led by former party leader Yukio Hatoyama, had about 30 conservative lawmakers in the Diet. Former name was 'Seiken kotai wo Jitsugen suru kai'.[55]
  • Minsha Kyōkai ja:民社協会 (lit. 'Democratic Socialist Group'): members of the former centrist Democratic Socialist Party which merged with the DPJ early on. About 25 members, was led by Tatsuo Kawabata.[55]
  • Kuni no katachi kenkyūkai ja:国の形研究会 (lit. 'Country Form Research Society'): led by Party President Naoto Kan. Was a liberal leaning faction with about 20 members.[55]
  • Shin seikyoku kondankai (lit. 'Panel for a New Political Situation'): the most left-leaning faction, created by members of the former Japan Socialist Party who felt that the Social Democratic Party was too radical. About 20 seats, led by Takahiro Yokomichi.[55]

The Independent's Club was a minor political party which formed a political entity with the DPJ in both chambers of the house.

Presidents of the Democratic Party of Japan edit

The Presidents of Democratic Party of Japan (民主党代表, Minshutō Daihyō), the formal name is 民主党常任幹事会代表 (Minshutō Jyōnin-Kanji-Kai Daihyō).

No. President
Constituency Took office Left office Election results Prime Minister (term)
Preceding parties: Democratic Party (1996), New Fraternity Party, Good Governance Party, & Democratic Reform Party
1 Naoto Kan
(b. 1946)
  Rep for Tokyo 18th 27 April 1998 25 September 1999
Jan. 1999
Naoto Kan – 180
Shigefumi Matsuzawa – 51
Abstention – 8
Hashimoto 1996–98
Obuchi 1998–2000
2 Yukio Hatoyama
(b. 1947)
  Rep for Hokkaido 9th 25 September 1999 10 December 2002
Sep. 1999 1st Round
Yukio Hatoyama – 154
Naoto Kan – 109
Takahiro Yokomichi – 57
Sep. 1999 2nd Round
Yukio Hatoyama – 182
Naoto Kan – 130
Unopposed walkover
Sep. 2002 1st Round
Yukio Hatoyama – 294
Naoto Kan – 221
Yoshihiko Noda – 182
Takahiro Yokomichi – 119
Sep. 2002 2nd Round
Yukio Hatoyama – 254
Naoto Kan – 242
Mori 2000–01
Koizumi 2001–06
3 Naoto Kan
(b. 1946)
  Rep for Tokyo 18th 10 December 2002 18 May 2004
Dec. 2002
Naoto Kan – 104
Katsuya Okada – 79
4 Katsuya Okada
(b. 1953)
  Rep for Mie 3rd 18 May 2004 17 September 2005
May 2004
October 2004
Unopposed walkover
5 Seiji Maehara
(b. 1962)
  Rep for Kyoto 2nd 17 September 2005 7 April 2006
Seiji Maehara – 96
Naoto Kan – 94
Abstention – 3
6 Ichirō Ozawa
(b. 1942)
  Rep for Iwate 4th 7 April 2006 16 May 2009
Apr. 2006
Ichirō Ozawa – 119
Naoto Kan – 73
Sep. 2006
Unopposed walkover
Unopposed walkover
Abe S. 2006–07
Fukuda Y. 2007–08
Asō 2008–09
7 Yukio Hatoyama
(b. 1947)
  Rep for Hokkaido 9th 16 May 2009 4 June 2010
Yukio Hatoyama – 124
Katsuya Okada – 95
Himself 2009–10
8 Naoto Kan
(b. 1946)
  Rep for Tokyo 18th 4 June 2010 29 August 2011
Naoto Kan – 291
Shinji Tarutoko – 129
Naoto Kan – 721
Ichirō Ozawa – 491
Himself 2010–11
9 Yoshihiko Noda
(b. 1957)
  Rep for Chiba 4th 29 August 2011 25 December 2012
Banri Kaieda – 143
Yoshihiko Noda – 102
Seiji Maehara – 74
Michihiko Kano – 52
Sumio Mabuchi −24
Yoshihiko Noda – 215
Banri Kaieda – 177
Yoshihiko Noda – 818
Hirotaka Akamatsu – 154
Kazuhiro Haraguchi – 123
Michihiko Kano – 113
Himself 2011–12
10 Banri Kaieda
(b. 1949)
  Rep for Tokyo 1st 25 December 2012 14 December 2014
Banri Kaieda – 90
Sumio Mabuchi – 54
Abe S. 2012–20
11 Katsuya Okada
(b. 1953)
  Rep for Mie 3rd 14 December 2014 27 March 2016
Goshi Hosono – 298
Katsuya Okada – 294
Akira Nagatsuma – 168
Katsuya Okada – 133
Goshi Hosono – 120
Successor party: Democratic Party (2016)

Election results edit

All-time highest values are bolded

General election results edit

Election Leader # of candidates # of seats won # of Constituency votes % of Constituency vote # of PR Block votes % of PR Block vote Government/opposition
2000 Yukio Hatoyama 262
127 / 480
16,811,732 27.61% 15,067,990 25.18% Opposition
2003 Naoto Kan 277
177 / 480
21,814,154 36.66% 22,095,636 37.39% Opposition
2005 Katsuya Okada 299
113 / 480
24,804,786 36.44% 21,036,425 31.02% Opposition
2009 Yukio Hatoyama 330
308 / 480
33,475,334 47.43% 29,844,799 42.41% DPJ-PNP-SDP Government Coalition (2009–2010)
DPJ-PNP Government Coalition (2010–2012)
2012 Yoshihiko Noda 267
57 / 480
13,598,773 22.81% 9,268,653 15.49% Opposition
2014 Banri Kaieda 198
73 / 475
11,916,838 22.50% 9,775,991 18.33% Opposition

Councillors election results edit

Election Leader # of seats total # of seats won # of National votes % of National vote # of Prefectural votes % of Prefectural vote Majority/Minority
1998 Naoto Kan
47 / 252
27 / 126
12,209,685 21.75% 9,063,939 16.20% Minority
2001 Yukio Hatoyama
59 / 247
26 / 121
8,990,524 16.42% 10,066,552 18.53% Minority
2004 Katsuya Okada
82 / 242
50 / 121
21,137,457 37.79% 21,931,984 39.09% Minority
2007 Ichirō Ozawa
109 / 242
60 / 121
23,256,247 39.48% 24,006,817 40.45% Non-governing plurality (until 2009)
DPJ–SDPPNP governing minority (since 2009)
2010 Naoto Kan
106 / 242
44 / 121
18,450,139 31.56% 22,756,000 38.97% DPJ–PNP governing minority (until 2012)
Non-governing plurality (since 2012)
2013 Banri Kaieda
59 / 242
17 / 121
7,268,653 13.4% 8,646,371 16.3% Minority

See also edit

References edit

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  6. ^ Franičević, Vojmir; Kimura, Hiroshi (2003). Globalization, democratization and development: European and Japanese views of change in South East Europe. ISBN 953-157-439-1. Towards the end of the 1990s the social-liberal Minshuto (Democratic Party of Japan, DPJ) consolidated and replaced Shinshinto as a rival of LDP.
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  47. ^ Out Basic Philosophy – Building a free and secure society on The Democratic Party of Japan's website accessed on May 12, 2010. (in Japanese)
  48. ^ Yazawa, Shujiro [in Japanese] (July 16, 2015). "The crisis of democracy in Japan". openDemocracy. Retrieved November 8, 2020. The party was composed of politicians whose political and ideological backgrounds were so diverse, ranging from conservatives to social democrats, that it was difficult to get a consensus even on basic policies.
  49. ^ Spremberg, Felix (25 November 2020). "How Japan's Left is repeating its unfortunate history". International Politics & Society Journal. Retrieved 19 November 2021. The former main centre-left opposition, the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), was Japan's version of third way politics and served since the mid-1990s as a 'big tent party' for a plethora of heterogeneous groups ranging from two socialist parties to liberal and conservative groups.
  50. ^ a b c d e Out Basic Philosophy – Building a free and secure society on The Democratic Party of Japan's website accessed on 17 May 2008.
  51. ^ Ryall, Julian (2009-08-27). "Japan election: unemployed turn on the government". London: The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 2022-01-12. Retrieved 1 May 2010.
  52. ^ Hiroko Tabuchi (2009-08-03). "Opposition Woos Japan's Voters With Costly Vows". New York Times.
  53. ^ Fujioka, Chisa (2009-08-21). "Japan opposition may score landslide win: media". Reuters.
  54. ^ Zölzer, Friedo; Meskens, Gaston (21 April 2017). Ethics of Environmental Health. Taylor & Francis. p. 140. ISBN 978-1-317-28686-8.
  55. ^ a b c d e 民主代表選 鳩山氏が優位、岡田氏は参院に照準, Asahi Shimbun, 16 May 2009

Further reading edit

  • Kenji Kushida and Phillip Lipscy. 2013. Japan under the DPJ: The Politics of Transition and Governance. Stanford: Brookings/Walter H. Shorenstein Asia Pacific Research Center
  • Phillip Lipscy and Ethan Scheiner. 2012. "Japan under the DPJ: The Paradox of Political Change without Policy Change Archived 2014-02-22 at the Wayback Machine" Journal of East Asian Studies 12(3): 311–322.
  • Japan after Kan: Implications for the DPJ’s Political Future, Q&A with Richard J. Samuels (MIT) August 2011
  • Daniel Sneider, The New Asianism: Japanese Foreign Policy under the Democratic Party of Japan (Asia Policy, July 2011)
  • Leif-Eric Easley, Tetsuo Kotani and Aki Mori, Electing a New Japanese Security Policy? Examining Foreign Policy Visions within the Democratic Party of Japan (Asia Policy, August 2009)
  • Linus Hagström (2010) The Democratic Party of Japan's Security Policy and Japanese Politics of Constitutional Revision: A Cloud over Article 9? Australian Journal of International Affairs 64 (5): 512–28.

External links edit

  • Democratic Party of Japan
  • Democratic Party of Japan's channel on YouTube