Change Coming to Japan


Japan is kind of an odd duck among the world’s democracies in that they have most of the trappings of parliamentary democracy, but when all is said and done the same party always wins. Since 1955, the Liberal Democratic Party has consistently held power except for one brief 11 month spell during which an opposition coalition controlled things. But today that’s changing as the opposition Democratic Party of Japan has swept to a clear win in parliamentary elections and already controls the upper house. Yukio Hatoyama will take over as Prime Minister.

One consequence of this prolonged period of one-party rule is that the LDP is not an especially ideological political party. It’s essentially a “party of government” patronage machine that contains diverse factions and different points of view. The Democratic Party, consequently, is more of a generic umbrella opposition grouping than a clear ideological alternative. Thus the Democrats are riding in on a tide of public discontent, but don’t seem to have articulated much in the way of a policy agenda beyond the obscure issue of bureaucracy reform. The thing that strikes outsiders about Japan is that they should probably let more immigrants in but no Japanese people seem to like that idea.