Japan Table of Contents
Figure 9. House of Representatives Elections, 1958-90
The LDP had dominated the political system beginning in 1955, when it was established as a coalition of smaller conservative groups. Until 1993 all of Japan's prime ministers came from its ranks as did, with one exception, other cabinet ministers. The party's fortunes have risen and ebbed: a low point was reached in the July 23, 1989, election to the upper house, when it became, for the first time, a minority party, and again in the July 18, 1993, lower house election, when it lost its simple majority in that body (see The Structure of Government; The Liberal Democratic Party in National Elections , this ch.).
By the early 1990s, the LDP's nearly four decades in power allowed it to establish a highly stable process of policy formation. This process would not have been possible if other parties had secured parliamentary majorities. LDP strength was based on an enduring, although not unchallenged, coalition of big business, small business, agriculture, professional groups, and other interests. Elite bureaucrats collaborated closely with the party and interest groups in drafting and implementing policy. In a sense, the party's success was a result not of its internal strength but of its weakness. It lacked a strong, nationwide organization or consistent ideology with which to attract voters. Its leaders were rarely decisive, charismatic, or popular. But it functioned efficiently as a locus for matching interest group money and votes with bureaucratic power and expertise. This arrangement resulted in corruption, but the party could claim credit for helping to create economic growth and a stable, middle-class Japan.
Data as of January 1994