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Liberal Democratic Party (Japan)

Liberal Democratic Party
自由民主党 or 自民党
President Shinzō Abe
Secretary-General Sadakazu Tanigaki
Spokesperson Yuriko Koike
Councillors leader Hidehisa Otsuji
Representatives leader Shinzō Abe
Founded 15 November 1955 (1955-11-15)
Headquarters 11-23, Nagata-cho 1-chome, Chiyoda, Tokyo 100-8910, Japan
Membership  (2012) 789,000
Ideology Reactionism
Economic liberalism
Political position Centre-right[5] to Right-wing[6]
Colors Green and Blue
115 / 242
282 / 480
Prefectural assembly members[7]
1,271 / 2,725
Municipal assembly members[7]
1,656 / 32,070
Politics of Japan
Political parties

The Liberal Democratic Party of Japan (自由民主党 Jiyū-Minshutō), frequently abbreviated to LDP or Jimintō (自民党), is a major conservative[8] political party in Japan. It is one of the most consistently successful political parties in the world. The LDP has been in power since 1955, except for a brief 11 month period between 1993 and 1994, and from 2009 to 2012. In the 2012 election it regained control of government. It holds 295 seats in the lower house and 115 seats in the upper house.

The LDP is not to be confused with the now-defunct Liberal Party (自由党 Jiyūtō), which merged with the Democratic Party of Japan, the main opposition party, in November 2003.[9]


  • History 1
  • Ideology 2
  • Structure 3
  • Factions 4
    • Heisei Kenkyukai (from the Liberal Party – Right Liberal) 4.1
    • Kouchi Kai (from Liberal Party – Keynesian economics and Right Liberal) 4.2
    • Seiwa Seisaku Kenkyukai (from Japan Democratic Party – Nationalist) 4.3
  • Membership 5
  • Performance in national elections until 1993 6
  • Recent political history 7
  • Election results 8
    • General election results 8.1
    • Councillors election results 8.2
  • See also 9
  • References 10
  • Bibliography 11
  • External links 12



The ideology of LDP is similar to the United States Republican Party. While pursuing policies of free-trade/market competition, the ideology of cooperation is respected as well. However, the LDP has not espoused a well-defined, unified ideology or political philosophy, due to its long term regimes. Its members hold a variety of positions that could be broadly defined as being to the right of the opposition parties. The LDP traditionally identified itself with a number of general goals: rapid, export-based economic growth; close cooperation with the United States in foreign and defense policies; and several newer issues, such as administrative reform. Administrative reform encompassed several themes: simplification and streamlining of government bureaucracy; privatization of state-owned enterprises; and adoption of measures, including tax reform, in preparation for the expected strain on the economy posed by an aging society. Other priorities in the early 1990s included the promotion of a more active and positive role for Japan in the rapidly developing Asia-Pacific region, the internationalization of Japan's economy by the liberalization and promotion of domestic demand (expected to lead to the creation a high-technology information society) and the promotion of scientific research. A business-inspired commitment to free enterprise was tempered by the insistence of important small business and agricultural constituencies on some form of protectionism and subsidies.[10] The LDP opposes the legalization of same-sex marriage.[11]


At the apex of the LDP's formal organization is the president (総裁 sōsai), who can serve two three-year terms (The presidential term was increased from two years to three years in 2002). When the party has a parliamentary majority, the party president was the prime minister. The choice of party president was formally that of a party convention composed of Diet members and local LDP figures, but in most cases, they merely approved the joint decision of the most powerful party leaders. To make the system more democratic, Prime Minister Takeo Fukuda introduced a "primary" system in 1978, which opened the balloting to some 1.5 million LDP members. The process was so costly and acrimonious, however, that it was subsequently abandoned in favor of the old "smoke-filled room" method.

After the party president, the most important LDP officials are the Secretary-General (kanjicho), and the chairmen of the LDP Executive Council (somukaicho) and of the Policy Affairs Research Council or "PARC" (政務調査会 seimu chōsakai).

The LDP was the most "traditionally Japanese" of the political parties because it relied on a complex network of patron-client (oyabun-kobun) relationships on both national and local levels. Nationally, a system of factions in both the House of Representatives and the House of Councillors tied individual Diet members to powerful party leaders. Locally, Diet members had to maintain koenkai (local support groups) to keep in touch with public opinion and gain votes and financial backing. The importance and pervasiveness of personal ties between Diet members and faction leaders and between citizens and Diet members gave the party a pragmatic "you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours" character. Its success depended less on generalized mass appeal than on the so-called sanban (three "ban"): jiban (a strong, well-organized constituency), kaban (a briefcase full of money), and kanban (prestigious appointment, particularly on the cabinet level).


The LDP has 3 major factions:

Heisei Kenkyukai (from the Liberal Party – Right Liberal)

Kouchi Kai (from Liberal Party – Keynesian economics and Right Liberal)

  • Supported by the established Liberal party of the bureaucracy, white-collar workers, doctors, small merchants and small factory people.
  • This faction led economic development from 1960 to 1988. They promote international cooperation with China and Korea, a Government bond/Consumption Tax for National Medical care and National Banks which financially support small firms, as well as Free trade Policy.
  • Founded by diplomat Shigeru Yoshida. Succeeded by Hayato Ikeda, Kiichi Miyazawa, Sadakazu Tanigaki, Makoto Koga.

Seiwa Seisaku Kenkyukai (from Japan Democratic Party – Nationalist)

  • Supported by Japan Business Federation, established authoritarian bureaucracy, war widows from WW2.
  • This faction promotes decreasing taxes for high income taxpayers, decreasing taxes for large companies, depending on the US for national defense issues, visits to Yasukuni Shrine in order to garner support from Nationalist voters without any special interest payments, returning the constitution to support the political system of the pre-WWII era, decreasing road/railway construction, decreasing medical care, eliminating overtime pay for white-collar workers, changing permanent employment to temporary employment, eliminating labor unions, free trade for car exports, removing protection for small farmers, privatization of Japan Post and the layoff of Japan Post workers.
  • 1955 GHQ changed their policy from anti-fascist to anti-communist, and released Nobusuke Kishi (Class A war criminals, a member of Hideki Tōjō's Militarist Cabinet, father of Shintarō Abe and grandfather of Shinzō Abe) from Sugamo Prison. Kishi founded the Japan Democratic Party (No relation to the current JDP)
  • The faction was suppressed by Heisei Seisaku Kenkyukai and Kochikai from 1960 to 1990 but because of a failure of the Heisei Seisaku Kenkyukai and Kochikai leadership it led the LDP from 2002 to 2008, mainly under Junichiro Koizumi.
  • Founded by Nobusuke Kishi. Succeeded by Takeo Fukuda, Junichirō Koizumi, Shinzō Abe, Yasuo Fukuda.


The LDP had over five million party members in 1990, but by 2012 it had around 800,000.[12]

Performance in national elections until 1993

Election statistics show that, while the LDP had been able to secure a majority in the twelve House of Representatives elections from May 1958 to February 1990, with only three exceptions (December 1976, October 1979, and December 1983), its share of the popular vote had declined from a high of 57.8 percent in May 1958 to a low of 41.8 percent in December 1976, when voters expressed their disgust with the party's involvement in the Lockheed scandal. The LDP vote rose again between 1979 and 1990. Although the LDP won an unprecedented 300 seats in the July 1986 balloting, its share of the popular vote remained just under 50 percent. The figure was 46.2 percent in February 1990. Following the three occasions when the LDP found itself a handful of seats shy of a majority, it was obliged to form alliances with conservative independents and the breakaway New Liberal Club. In a cabinet appointment after the October 1983 balloting, a non-LDP minister, a member of the New Liberal Club, was appointed for the first time. In the 18 July 1993, lower house elections, the LDP fell so far short of a majority that it was unable to form a government.

In the upper house, the July 1989 election represented the first time that the LDP was forced into a minority position. In previous elections, it had either secured a majority on its own or recruited non-LDP conservatives to make up the difference of a few seats.

The political crisis of 1988–89 was testimony to both the party's strength and its weakness. In the wake of a succession of issues—the pushing of a highly unpopular consumer tax through the Diet in late 1988, the Recruit insider trading scandal, which tainted virtually all top LDP leaders and forced the resignation of Prime Minister Takeshita Noboru in April (a successor did not appear until June), the resignation in July of his successor, Uno Sosuke, because of a sex scandal, and the poor showing in the upper house election—the media provided the Japanese with a detailed and embarrassing dissection of the political system. By March 1989, popular support for the Takeshita cabinet as expressed in public opinion polls had fallen to 9 percent. Uno's scandal, covered in magazine interviews of a "kiss and tell" geisha, aroused the fury of female voters.

Yet Uno's successor, the eloquent if obscure Kaifu Toshiki, was successful in repairing the party's battered image. By January 1990, talk of the waning of conservative power and a possible socialist government had given way to the realization that, like the Lockheed affair of the mid-1970s, the Recruit scandal did not signal a significant change in who ruled Japan. The February 1990 general election gave the LDP, including affiliated independents, a comfortable, if not spectacular, majority: 275 of 512 total representatives.

In October 1991, Prime Minister Kaifu Toshiki failed to attain passage of a political reform bill and was rejected by the LDP, despite his popularity with the electorate. He was replaced as prime minister by Miyazawa Kiichi, a long-time LDP stalwart. Defections from the LDP began in the spring of 1992, when Hosokawa Morihiro left the LDP to form the Japan New Party. Later, in the summer of 1993, when the Miyazawa government also failed to pass political reform legislation, thirty-nine LDP members joined the opposition in a no-confidence vote. In the ensuing lower house election, more than fifty LDP members formed the Shinseito and the Sakigake parties, denying the LDP the majority needed to form a government.

Recent political history

After a victory in the Japan general election, 2005, the LDP held an absolute majority in the Japanese House of Representatives and formed a coalition government with the New Komeito Party. Shinzo Abe succeeded then-Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi as the president of the party on 20 September 2006. The party suffered a major defeat in the election of 2007, however, and lost its majority in the upper house for the first time in its history.

The party's support continued to decline, with prime ministers changing rapidly, and in the 2009 House of Representatives elections the LDP lost its majority, winning only 118 seats, marking the only time they would be out of the majority other than a brief period in 1993.[13][14] Since that time, numerous party members have left to join other parties or form new ones, including Your Party (みんなの党 Minna no Tō), the Sunrise Party of Japan (たちあがれ日本 Tachiagare Nippon),[15] and the New Renaissance Party (新党改革 Shintō Kaikaku). The party had some success in the 2010 House of Councilors election, netting 13 additional seats and denying the DPJ a majority.[16][17] The LDP returned to power with its ally New Komeito after winning a clear majority in the lower house general election on 16 December 2012 after just over three years in opposition. Shinzo Abe became Prime Minister for the second time.[18]

Election results

General election results

Election Leader # of candidates # of seats won # of Constituency votes % of Constituency vote # of PR Block votes % of PR Block vote
1958 Nobusuke Kishi 413
289 / 467
23,840,170 59.0%
1960 Hayato Ikeda 399
300 / 467
22,950,404 58.1%
1963 Hayato Ikeda 359
283 / 467
22,972,892 56.0%
1967 Eisaku Satō 342
277 / 486
22,447,838 48.9%
1969 Eisaku Satō 328
288 / 486
22,381,570 47.6%
1972 Tanaka Kakuei 339
271 / 491
24,563,199 46.9%
1976 Takeo Miki 320
249 / 511
23,653,626 41.8%
1979 Masayoshi Ōhira 322
248 / 511
24,084,130 44.59%
1980 Masayoshi Ōhira 310
284 / 511
28,262,442 47.88%
1983 Yasuhiro Nakasone 339
250 / 511
25,982,785 45.76%
1986 Yasuhiro Nakasone 322
300 / 512
29,875,501 49.42%
1990 Toshiki Kaifu 338
275 / 512
30,315,417 46.14%
1993 Kiichi Miyazawa 285
223 / 511
22,999,646 36.62%
1996 Ryutaro Hashimoto 355
239 / 500
21,836,096 38.63% 18,205,955 32.76%
2000 Yoshirō Mori 337
233 / 480
24,945,806 40.97% 16,943,425 28.31%
2003 Junichiro Koizumi 336
237 / 480
26,089,326 43.85% 20,660,185 34.96%
2005 Junichiro Koizumi 346
296 / 480
32,518,389 47.80% 25,887,798 38.20%
2009 Tarō Asō 326
119 / 480
27,301,982 38.68% 18,810,217 26.73%
2012 Shinzō Abe 337
294 / 480
25,643,309 43.01% 16,624,457 27.79%

Councillors election results

Election Leader # of seats total # of seats won # of National votes % of National vote # of Prefectural votes % of Prefectural vote
1956 Ichirō Hatoyama
122 / 250
61 / 125
11,356,874 39.7% 14,353,960 48.4%
1959 Nobusuke Kishi
132 / 250
71 / 125
12,120,598 41.2% 15,667,022 52.0%
1962 Hayato Ikeda
142 / 250
69 / 125
16,581,637 46.4% 17,112,986 47.1%
1965 Eisaku Satō
140 / 251
71 / 125
17,583,490 47.2% 16,651,284 44.2%
1968 Eisaku Satō
137 / 250
69 / 125
20,120,089 46.7% 19,405,546 44.9%
1971 Eisaku Satō
131 / 249
62 / 125
17,759,395 44.5% 17,727,263 44.0%
1974 Kakuei Tanaka
126 / 250
62 / 125
23,332,773 44.3% 21,132,372 39.5%
1977 Takeo Fukuda
125 / 249
63 / 125
18,160,061 35.8% 20,440,157 39.5%
1980 Masayoshi Ōhira
135 / 250
69 / 125
23,778,190 43.3% 24,533,083 42.5%
1983 Yasuhiro Nakasone
137 / 252
68 / 126
16,441,437 35.3% 19,975,034 43.2%
1986 Yasuhiro Nakasone
143 / 252
72 / 126
22,132,573 38.58% 26,111,258 45.07%
1989 Sōsuke Uno
109 / 252
36 / 126
17,466,406 30.70% 15,343,455 27.32%
1992 Kiichi Miyazawa
106 / 252
68 / 126
20,528,293 45.23% 14,961,199 33.29%
1995 Yōhei Kōno
111 / 252
46 / 126
10,557,547 25.40% 11,096,972 27.29%
1998 Keizō Obuchi
102 / 252
44 / 126
17,033,851 30.45% 14,128,719 25.17%
2001 Junichiro Koizumi
111 / 247
64 / 121
22,299,825 41.04% 21,114,727 38.57%
2004 Junichiro Koizumi
115 / 242
49 / 121
16,797,686 30.03% 19,687,954 35.08%
2007 Shinzō Abe
83 / 242
37 / 121
16,544,696 28.1% 18,606,193 31.35%
2010 Sadakazu Tanigaki
84 / 242
51 / 121
14,071,671 24.07% 19,496,083 33.38%
2013 Shinzō Abe
115 / 242
65 / 121
18,460,404 34.7% 22,681,192 42.7%

See also


  1. ^ Karan, Pradyumna P. (2005), Japan in the 21st century: environment, economy, and society, University Press of Kentucky 
  2. ^ Neo-Liberal Populism in Japan--Koizumi's Success in the LDP Presidential Election in Comparative Perspective (in Japanese),, Okumi H.
  3. ^ How Junichiro Koizumi seized the leadership of Japan's Liberal Democratic Party, IKUO KABASHIMA and GILL STEEL, Japanese Journal of Political Science, Cambridge Journals Online
  4. ^ Populist Appeals in Election, and Claims of Political Theater, MARTIN FACKLER, The New York Times, September 16, 2008
  5. ^ The Liberal Democratic Party is widely described as centre-right:
    • Roger Blanpain; Michele Tiraboschi (2008). The Global Labour Market: From Globalization to Flexicurity. Kluwer Law International. p. 268.  
    • Ludger Helms (18 October 2013). Parliamentary Opposition in Old and New Democracies. Routledge. p. 97.  
    • Jeffrey Henderson; William Goodwin Aurelio Professor of Greek Language and Literature Jeffrey Henderson (11 February 2011). East Asian Transformation: On the Political Economy of Dynamism, Governance and Crisis. Taylor & Francis. p. 54.  
    • Peter Davies; Derek Lynch (16 August 2005). The Routledge Companion to Fascism and the Far Right. Routledge. p. 236.  
  6. ^
  7. ^ a b Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications: Prefectural and local assembly members and governors/mayors by political party as of December 31, 2011
  8. ^ The Liberal Democratic Party is widely described as conservative:
    • Roger Blanpain; Michele Tiraboschi (2008). The Global Labour Market: From Globalization to Flexicurity. Kluwer Law International. p. 268.  
    • Jeff Kingston (26 November 2013). Japan in Transformation, 1945-2010. Routledge. p. 19.  
    • Larry Diamond; Richard Gunther (26 December 2001). Political Parties and Democracy. JHU Press. p. 145.  
    • Paul W. Zagorski (10 September 2012). Comparative Politics: Continuity and Breakdown in the Contemporary World. Routledge. p. 111.  
    • Ray Christensen (January 2000). Ending the Ldp Hegemony: Party Cooperation in Japan. University of Hawaii Press. p. 232.  
  9. ^ "The Democratic Party of Japan".  
  10. ^ The Liberal Democratic Party -
  11. ^ Inada, Miho; Dvorak, Phred. "Same-Sex Marriage in Japan: A Long Way Away?". The Wall Street Journal. September 20, 2013. Retrieved March 31, 2014.
  12. ^ Japan Times What’s the LDP’s true agenda? March 23, 2013
  13. ^ Major win' for Japan opposition"'". BBC News. 2009-08-30. Retrieved 2009-08-31. 
  14. ^ "衆院党派別得票数・率(比例代表)". (in Japanese) Jiji. 2009-08-31. 
  15. ^ New political party to be named 'Tachiagare Nippon' (Stand up Japan)
  16. ^ House of Councillors Website (in English)
  17. ^ House of Councillors internet TV
  18. ^ The Japan Times


  • Köllner, Patrick. "The Liberal Democratic Party at 50: Sources of Dominance and Changes in the Koizumi Era," Social Science Japan Journal (Oct 2006) 9#2 pp 243–257.
  • Krauss, Ellis S., and Robert J. Pekkanen. ""The Rise and Fall of Japan's Liberal Democratic Party," Journal of Asian Studies (2010) 69#1 pp 5–15, focuses on the 2009 election.
  • Krauss, Ellis S., and Robert J. Pekkanen, eds. The Rise and Fall of Japan's LDP: Political Party Organizations as Historical Institutions (Cornell University Press; 2010) 344 pages; essays by scholars
  • Scheiner, Ethan. Democracy without Competition in Japan: Opposition Failure in a One-Party Dominant State (Cambridge University Press, 2006)

External links

  • (English) The official website of Liberal Democratic Party
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