Country Listing

Japan Table of Contents

Japan

Party History and Basic Principles

The LDP has a complex genealogy. Its roots can be traced to the groups established by Itagaki Taisuke and Okuma Shigenobu in the 1880s (see The Development of Representative Government , ch. 1). It attained its present form in November 1955, when the conservative Liberal Party (Jiyuto) and the Japan Democratic Party (Nihon Minshuto) united in response to the threat posed by a unified Japan Socialist Party, which had been established the month before. The union of the Liberal Party and the Japan Democratic Party has often been described as a "shotgun marriage." Both had strong leaders and had previously competed with each other. The Japan Democratic Party, which had been established only a year before, in November 1954, was itself a coalition of different groups in which farmers were prominent. The result of the new amalgamation was a large party that represented a broad spectrum of interests but had minimal organization compared with the socialist and other leftist parties. In 1976, in the wake of the Lockheed bribery scandal, a handful of younger LDP Diet members broke away and established their own party, the New Liberal Club (Shin Jiyu Kurabu). A decade later, however, it was reabsorbed by the LDP.

Unlike the leftist parties, the LDP did not espouse a welldefined ideology or political philosophy. Its members held a variety of positions that could be broadly defined as being to the right of the opposition parties, yet more moderate than those of Japan's numerous rightist splinter groups (see Political Extremists , this ch.). 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 stateowned enterprises; and adoption of measures, including tax reform, needed to prepare for the strain on the economy posed by an aging society. Other priorities in the early 1990s included promoting a more active and positive role for Japan in the rapidly developing Asia-Pacific region, internationalizing Japan's economy by liberalizing and promoting domestic demand, creating a hightechnology information society, and promoting 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.

Data as of January 1994