Streltsov D. House of Councillors Elections 2013: Some Results and Speculations

House of Councillors Elections 2013: Some Results and Speculations

by Dmitry Streltsov

The article analyses the results of the elections to the Upper House of the National Diet of Japan, which were held on July 21, 2013. It is stressed that the main reason for the Liberal Democratic Party to win was not due to the support of its electorate, but due to fragmentation of the opposition. The article gives a detailed overview of the further main scenarios of the development of Japan`s party system, including the way of traditional two-party system as well as coalition government led by a diverse number of participants.

The first half of 2013 was marked by the preparation for the elections to the Upper House of the National Diet of Japan. After a crushing victory of Liberal Democratic Party during the December elections 2012, the governing party continued to face the problem of absence of majority in House of Councillors, which according to the Constitution has similar powers for lawmaking as the Lower house. In the upcoming elections, the party had a goal to get a stable majority, and get over with the "twisted parliament" situation. The ultimate goal was to get a qualified two-thirds majority, which would allow LDP to undertake a long-awaited constitutional reform. The opposition, in turn, understanding that electoral disposition was shifting against it, sought to rehabilitate themselves in the eyes of voters for the last year defeat, by maintaining relatively strong presence in the Upper House, in order not to prevent full discretion of Liberal Democratic governance.

Results of the Elections

The elections to the House of Councillors of the National Diet of Japan were held on July 21, 2013. 121 seats, which constituted half of the roster reelected every three years, were claimed by 433 candidates from more than ten political parties. Predictably the elections brought victory to the governing Liberal Democratic Party, which had a total of 65 mandates. As a result, the governing coalition, including LDP and Komeito Party, received the majority of seats in the Upper House - 135 seats out of 242.

LDP took almost all seats in single-seat constituencies (29 out of 31), where the opposition in the end failed to compete with it. There had also been a noticeable increase of LDP power in proportional representation district, where it managed to win 18 seats. Therefore, the main goal pursued by LDP was achieved: the support for all legislative initiatives of the Government was guaranteed in both Houses of the Diet, which formally allowed the governing party to ignore the opinion of the opposition. This means, that a "twisted parliament" situation, when both of its Houses were controlled by opposing political forces was ended for at least next three years.

However, the ultimate goal of LDP - to get a qualified two-thirds majority in the Upper House - was not achieved. As a result, even with the support of Your Party and Restoration Party, which share LDP`s views on constitutional reforms, the LDP will not be able to pass the amendments through the Upper House. The critical role will evidently play the fact, that LDP will not be able to openly object its coalition partner, Komeito Party, which electorate will obediently vote for the LDP candidates in the districts where Komeito has absolutely no chances of being elected.

As one might expect, a great defeat of Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) could not be prevented. Poor performance in the elections, which resulted in holding of only 17 seats, was not surprising for anyone. Even in the districts of the proportional representation, where DPJ have traditionally had strong positions, they only managed to win 7 seats, which is the poorest indicator since the formation of the party in 1998. In proportional representation district DPJ was supported only by more than 7 million voters (13.4% of the total number), which is even less than the result of Komeito (more than 7.5 million votes or 14.2%). Nevertheless, taking into account the mandates received during the elections in 2010, DPJ managed to retain in the Upper House the second largest faction of 59 seats after LDP and remained the largest opposition party.

Clear failure of the "third pole" parties has also attracted attention. Restoration Party, which took part in the elections for the House of Councillors for the first time, performed very poorly. It was supported by only 11.9% of voters, which gave them 8 seats. The performance of one more "third pole" party - Your party - was also truly bad. In contrast to many optimistic predictions, the party managed to get only 4.75 million votes (8.9%). As for the Communist Party of Japan, with the 8 seats they won (inclusive of the holding seats, its number increased to 11 mandates), it was on the contrary, a triumph, as in many years it was the first time, when the party received the right of legislative initiative in the Upper House.

We should point out several reasons for the victory of LDP. Firstly, expectancy effect played its role. "Abenomics" has not yet lost its potential of attractiveness as an efficient recipe to take the national economy out of crisis.

Secondly, over several years of kaleidoscopic change of Cabinets, the society is very much annoyed that political crisis has become a permanent situation, produced by the "twisted parliament". In opinion polls, carried out on the eve of the elections, more than 65% of those who decided to vote for LDP stated that the governing parties ought to have the majority in the Upper House as well[1].

Thirdly, fragmentation of the Opposition also played its part. DPJ could not re-establish the climate of confidence with the public. The party did not take the effort to submit the candidates in many districts, where the terms of appointment of existing members had run out. The negative image of DPJ was so strong, that some DPJ members of the House of Councillors, elected six years ago, preferred to run as independent candidates, taking a deliberate distance from the party. Even the former chairman of the DPJ N.Kan, who had recently headed national government, explicitly refused to support an officially nominated candidate in Tokyo district, and preferred to support an independent candidate, who had been rejected by the party. In fact, DPJ failed to perform as an opposition force of national importance, which affected its hard-won position as a second party to replace LDP.

There was almost no coordination between opposition parties during candidate nomination and conducting an election campaign. Even the "third pole" parties, which should have agreed with each other, turned out to be unable to overcome internal contradictions. For instance, Your Party refused to establish electoral collaboration with Restoration Party, which reputation was damaged by the statements of their leader.

Fourthly, the peculiarities of electoral system of the House of Councillors have also produced an important effect on the results of the elections[2]. In one-member districts, where the majority vote system is implemented ("the winner takes all"), even the slightest change in electoral support would lead to a significant shift of parliament force balance. Thus, the level of LDP representation in the Upper House compared to the House of Councillor election of 2007-2010 has increased from 21 to 70%, though the number of the received votes has risen only by 4%, i.e. from 43 to 47%[3]. In other words, LDP has become the only one to benefit from public loss of confidence in DPJ.

The situation was different in multi-member districts. Almost all the votes, which had supported DPJ during the previous elections, went not to LDP, but other oppositional parties. In other words, opposition votes were proportionally allocated between several opposition parties, which could not provide a strong opponent and was for the benefit of LDP. This has made it possible for the Liberal Democratic Party to win the election, even though it had received fewer votes compared to the Lower House elections of 2009, when the party suffered a bitter defeat.

Therefore, LDP did not defeat its opponents because of increase of support among public, but mainly because the fact that other oppositional parties were unable to compete by discrediting itself due to different reasons. The main factor was disappointment in DPJ and absence of an outstanding alternative among opposition parties, except LDP. According to the Yomiuri Shimbun telephone poll, a significant number of the respondents stated, that had voted for LDP, because "it was the best among others"[4], i.e. any other choice would have been even worth.

Fifth, the victory of LDP was favored by one more factor - a high level of absenteeism during the elections. This time the voter turnout was 52.61%, which is the third worst indicator since the introduction of a modern electoral system in 1994[5]. More than 10 million of voters, who participated in the previous elections, chose not to come to the polling site, because there was no appealing party in the ballot paper. In other words, many electors not willing to vote for the fully discredited DPJ, preferred to stay at home, in order not to support the Liberal Democrats - the only, according to the established opinion, alternative to the Democrats. An additional factor was also a psychological issue, which is that there was absolutely no intrigue or political "drive" during the elections. Many people considered that everything had already been decided (all the newspaper opinion polls were predicting a landslide victory of LDP) and chose to stay at home. Against this background, the parties which benefited in the concluded elections were those with a relatively organized electoral base - LDP, Komeito and KPJ, which voters come to the polling site in any weather, with any political climate.

Overall, the results of the elections matched the predictions, made by leading experts, sociologists on opinion polls. In spite of the initial projections, the first-ever lifting of the ban on the Internet use during electoral campaign in Japan also did not have any significant impact. The Internet was expected to influence young and first-time voters, who use it as a main source of information. However, only 8% of respondents of Yomiuri opinion poll stated, that accessed online-information (web-sites and blogs of parties and particular candidates) in order to make an informed choice [6].

Despite the overall predictability of the election results, there have been two surprising moments. Firstly, it is the failure of Restoration party, which had been considered to be the most likely candidate to replace DPJ as a back-bone party in the developing two-party system. Now that DPJ and any other "third pole" party in the Japanese political arena has lost the status of a potential sparring partner to LDP, all discussions about fast formation of the two-party system in Japan are being pushed into oblivion.

Secondly, it was surely unexpected for the Communists to have received even more votes than Your Party, which had been rapidly gaining momentum from one election to another. This fact attracts significant attention to CPJ, which now should be referred to as one more serious player in the political arena. However, the success of the Communists shouldn`t be overestimated. If this party preserves its current unreformed structure, in the foreseeable future, it will hardly be able to claim for the place in the ruling coalition, as all other political forces, including left-wing prefer to keep distance from CPJ.

During his TV appearances related to the concluded elections, S.Abe stated that his government "has received broad public support, which encourages the policy to rediscover the decision-making ability, formation of a stable government and advancing economic policies"[7].

It is hard to assess unambiguously the seemingly predictable outcome of the elections. The fact that Japan has finally embarked on the path of a long-awaited political stability, can definitely be regarded as positive. After J.Koizumi`s Cabinet resigned in 2006, there were six prime-ministers to change, which led some experts to speculate about Japanese "revolving-door syndrome" - a political leader who only cares for the short-term survival of his Cabinet. The fact that the government over at least next three years would draw on the steady majority in both Houses, will undoubtedly provide them a leeway to adopt any even non-popular decisions. Moreover, relatively lengthy time of one Cabinet in power, will have a beneficial effect on Japan`s international status, which had been criticized for its kaleidoscopic government change.

On the other hand, the carte blanche given to Abe's Cabinet received from the hand of the voters can do it a disservice - in the absence of real deterrent instrument by opposition, there is a risk for the Government to lose public feedback, and many of its radical initiatives, which in other situation would have been blocked, will receive the "green light". Meanwhile, many experts now speak of the serious risks posed by Abenomics - the uncontrolled inflation, the snowballing growth of public debt, the largest in the world in terms of GDP, the growth of social contrasts etc. In addition, the Cabinet has not yet decided how it intends to address long-standing challenge of introducing free market competition principles into economic sphere, preferential support by the government of particular corporate interests, deregulation etc. In the foreign policy, the utmost concern is whether Abe`s uncovered nationalism affects Japan`s relations with East Asian countries.

S.Abe is personally facing real challenges after the elections. One could assume that now it would be harder for the prime minister to keep LDP under his control. The fact is that during Abe's electoral campaign, there was some consolidation within the party groups. However, subsequently, when there is no election of national scope on the horizon, one can assume, that will encourage internal struggles for power.

These elections demonstrated the significance of factional politics for LDP - the fact that many have already discarded. It is noteworthy that during the electoral campaign, the role of a faction as a party`s structure of human resources mobilization was demonstrated. After the elections, the main internal party factions, headed by Machimura, Aso, Kishida, Nikai, Nukaga, engaged in a fierce fight for the 29 new members, who had not yet been definite about their factional belonging.

What's next?

DPJ's accession to power in 2009, meant the appearance of a new diverging pathway of Japan. Three different ways of development have emerged. The first one was a traditional two-party system (two large successive parties). The second way was the return to the one-and-a-half-party governance, with the dominance of one political party and active restoration of a traditional Japanese type consensus democracy, i.e. the creation of the second version of the notorious 1955 system. The third way was the coalition government with a multiple attendance and unclearly stated ideological priorities.

It is noteworthy that the idea of the formation of a full-fledged two-party system, implying the alternation of the party in power in the course of parliamentary elections, has been nurtured within political elite for a long time. Since the beginning of the 1990s the reform-minded wing of the LDP has already suggested, that the continuation of the monopoly of the ruling party in power evokes the risks of corruption, stagnation, rejection of the reforms and inability to provide for competitiveness of the country in a rapidly changing world. To promote the two-party system, the reform of 1994 was undertaken, which allowed to enhance the role of party brands in political process.

It should be noted that the concept of regular power alteration was not new even for the whole political tradition of the Post-Meiji period. This concept was serving as a foundation for political modernization of Taisho and Showa periods and was aiming to introduce the political model elements of the British type Parliamentary Democracy. In 1911 justifying the need for the two-party system, one of the founding fathers of Japanese parliamentarism Ozaki Yukio wrote: "The moment the parties have gained the experience of coming to power and going into opposition, they will be able to fully get used to a two-party system and become one of the two main political parties. This is the way constitutionalism should work"[8]. The principles to a two-party system were tried in the middle of 1920s, when two alternating parties - Seiyukai and Minseito - had entrenched on the political Olympus of those days. The electoral law of 1925, which guaranteed either of parties a certain minimum of representation in the Diet, was itself the result of a compromise based on the understanding of principle value of power change.

However, the path to the bipartisanship appeared to be more complicated and unpredictable, that one could assume. The experience of the power change in 2009 and 2012 showed that the historical dilemma had not been resolved, and the path remains open both, in the direction of Westminster system, as well as traditional consensus democracy. Moreover, the Japanese political system still has some features, which do not allow suggesting positive prospects of two-party democracy in Japan.

Firstly, the two main parties - LDP and DPJ - claiming the system-forming position, failed to establish the ideological divide on the government administration issues, which could provide the ground to classify one party as "conservative" and the other as "liberal". The conservatism in Japan is characterized by a different ideology, than it is defined by normative framework, a can hardly constitute a basis for program-ideological classification of the political party environment of the country. Overall, the parties did not differ much from each other in their program plans.

The Japanese historian Banno Junji carried out a comparative analysis of the pre-war party environment and the situation in the late 2000s. The conclusion of the political scientist is unambiguous: if before the war it was possible to distinguish between two large parties on the basis of their ideology (Seiyukai was a conservative force, whilst Minseito - a liberal one), nowadays it turns out to be impossible - LDP, as well as DPJ represent a conservative party[9].

It is especially notable regarding foreign policy agenda. DPJ's and LDP's manifests, concerning Security Treaty, Asian integration, global warming issues, the threat of the proliferation of nuclear weapons and other "emerging threats" have no principle differences. The similarity between them can be found in their financial, tax and economic policies. The only exception is the approach to the social functions of the State: while LDP believe in the theory of minimization of the State`s social obligations, DPJ advocate for the "social welfare State" approach, well-tested in northern European countries. Under such conditions it is hard for a politically motivated individual to make an informed choice, which would be based on ideological, but not on personal preferences, while the parties face difficulties in forming a cohort of devoted voters, which is an important feature of a two-party system. The Japanese political scientist J.Yamaguchi has noted that when the opposing positions coexist within one party (he gives the example of the nuclear energy development); "the choice of a voter does not imply his choice of the political direction"[10].

Secondly, political practice still discovers the absence of devotion to the party among its members (except for CPJ). As before, the members easily move to the opposition camp, if personal profit can be derived, as it happened to many LDP members, when the party was in opposition. The establishment of political polarization is also hampered by willingness of parties to peruse momentary interests, form the most unnatural coalitions and sacrifice their basic principles.

Thirdly, characteristic features of the Japanese parliamentary system, for instance its "viscosity", also work against establishment of bipartisanship. Such system enables the opposition to influence the legislative decision-making process. Such mechanisms include, for instance, the existence of the Upper House, which has almost the same rights with the Lower House, and parliamentary commission system; the limitation of the length of the session, inability to indefinitely extend the parliament session, as well as to transfer particular issues on the agenda from previous session on the follow-up session, and finally, the observance of consensus tradition, while dealing with regulation issues. All this creates additional advantage that enables minority parties to influence legislative process, when their opinion has to be taken in the account.

Most of the "viscosity" factors emerge from regulatory and legal feature of the legislative process. However, one must not forget about the features of political culture and national character of the Japanese, where non-public methods of dispute resolutions place a special role. In a "viscous" Parliament it is much harder to deliver a certain strategy, which would meet a critical opposition among minorities. As a result, it is harder for the parties to preserve their political identity, which constitutes the basis of any two-party system.

The "twisted parliament" situation, when the two Houses are controlled by the opposing forces, creates an additional constraint for a two-party system. The high destructive potential of such force balance was demonstrated during 2007-2009, when the Upper House was under the control of Democratic Party, and the Lower House was controlled by LDP, and during 2010-2012, when the situation changed vice versa. Several failures of the Diet to implement key legislation led to an acute political crisis and made the LDP or DPJ Cabinets resign.

Certainly, the qualified majority of ruling coalition in the Lower House helps the party to override any veto by the Upper House on legislative proposals, and to ignore its opinion on budget related issues, which levels the problem of the "twisted parliament". However, in any case, the practice of "viscous" parliament in accordance with Japanese political tradition, such forms of regulation as behind-the-scenes negotiations, bargaining and other non-public forms of parliamentary activities, play a disproportionately large role and contradict the idea of two-party system.

The high level of volatility in political party system is determined by fluctuation in interparty force balance in the Parliament, inconsistency of policy principles of the parties, kaleidoscopic change of the Cabinet and its leaders, changeability of political coalitions. All this contains a permanent threat to the establishment of bipartisanship.

Uncertainty remains whether DPJ stays "the second party" in the two-party system. Many people question the future of this party. Uncertain results of its four year governance disappointed even those voters, who have little interest in politics: the reluctance to vote for DPJ prevailed even after half a year since the party`s shift to the opposition. Many people doubt if the party under the same brand is able to be competitive with LDP in three years, when the country embarks on the path of new national elections. The disappointment of the public is far too strong, and too much is associated with the unfulfilled promises and expectations. That is why some experts suggest that the following agenda should include the dissolve of DPJ and establishment of a new party, which could become a cornerstone for the new "second pole".

Restoration Party also faces certain difficulties. The peak of population of its leader, T.Hashimoto, was followed by "sobriety", and now his name is strongly associated with his tactless statements about "comfort women". It would be quite difficult for T. Hashimoto to shake off this image. The prospects of Your Party are not optimistic either. For several elections in a row, it kept losing the voters` support, and in December 2013, it was left by several members, including the founder of Unity Party (Yui no to) Eda Kenji.

However, the question is not so much about who will become a backbone for the new conservative party, but rather about the ability of such a party, if being established on the ideology platform, to become a "second pole" in a new political model. It should be noted that such new party will have to distance itself from Rengo union organization, which form the mother structure of current DPJ, as there is a confrontation between it and Restoration Party as well as Your party.

Yet there is no one really longing for coalition with Restoration Party, which image has tarnished. It is more probable that a new party would be founded by the members of DPJ, Restoration Party and Your Party based on their conservative views. In such case, in order to avoid unnecessary associations and to be beyond the image of the discredited DPJ brand, which calls nothing but rejection among many voters, a new party should have a new name and should not position itself as a successor of any of the mentioned parties.

However, one might question, whether the new neo-conservative force, established on ideological basis, is able to become the "second pole" in the developing political configuration? And what kind of political manifestation the social-democrat views, which are broadly represented in electoral environment, will receive? It should be noted that such new party must distance itself from Rengo union organization, which form the mother structure of current DPJ, as there is a confrontation between it and Restoration Party as well as Your party.

History shows that the efficiency of such political script, when two-party basis is represented by conservative forces may be doubtful: New Frontier Party, founded in 1996 as an alternative to LDP did not meet the expectations and ceased to exist during the first year. Meanwhile DPJ, which had started as a social-democratic party, in the end turned to be a longer lasting project and was able to become a real competitor to LDP within only several years.

One more opportunity to establish the "second pole" force during the process of reforming of the political environment may be the prospective of founding a new social democratic party similar to those in Western Europe. Such social democratic party may only appear after DPJ is disintegrated and its center-right members leave the party. Then the party would be composed of the left and center-left wing members of DPJ, as a part of Japan Socialist Party and Democratic Socialist Party, the remains of Social Democratic Party and other left forces of non-communist origin. It is likely that the party may appear under a new name, in order again not to create unnecessary associations. Such party would place socially oriented principles at the core of its program, such as - achievement of social justice, promotion of social homogeneity of the society etc.

In reality the founding of a new neo-conservative and social democratic party may at the same time lead to the creation of not one but two medium parties, distinguished by their ideological principles.

In this regard, there might be a second relative scenario for the development of party system - the appearance of the political model with one dominant party in the center, surrounded by several "medium" (minor) parties. The situation in the Diet after 2012-2013 elections, when the "two large- one medium - several small" configuration was changed by "one large - three small" political environment, leads to consider the above-mentioned scenario might be possible. Taking into account the avalanche-like character of the power change, many might question whether the LDP`s return to the reins of government may be accompanied by a full-scale reproduction of 1955 system, including the notorious "pluralistic" political party system of decision-making.

It can be predicted with a large degree of probability that the dominant party phenomenon in its usual form is unlikely to reemerge, yet some elements of that old political model undoubtfully have a chance to be revived. The main reason for this is that the situation at the end of 2012 is fundamentally different from the bipolar epoch. "1955 system" was a response to the specific needs of power organization, typical of the Cold War era of 1950s, in particular, the necessity to prevent the left-wing forces from power and marginalize the opposition, which make conservative oriented parties forget their contradictions and unite. On the surface of foreign policy the "one and half party" system during bipolar period reflected an ideological choice between capitalist model guided by the US and socialist camp, headed by the USSR. Finally, in the economic sphere the dominant party phenomenon was best to comply with the specific needs of economic mobilization, where the first fiddle was played by bureaucracy, while the political power performed as a decorative element. The government monopoly of one "super" party was compensated by the fact that there was no single authority in it and the faction system, which was good at the adoption to the electoral model of "middle constituencies", was preserved.

It goes without saying that all external and internal conditions for the establishment of "1955 system" have already fallen into oblivion. The "politics of redistribution" is also the phenomenon of the past, which existed only under the conditions of super-profit from the export of finished goods. The Cold War is over as well as ideological divide of the parties on their foreign policy views. Political reform did away with the system of "middle constituencies" and introduced a majority principle, which, as it turns out, provides a quick transfer of power.

There is an increasing understanding among political elite of Japan, that in the modern world, political power should carry out wholly new functions, than several decades ago. The role of the government party is to advance a certain political line, which would receive electoral support during its battle with other alternative programs of strategic development. In this light, the model of a dominant party, which is unable to provide with a variety of decisions for social development, has no significant prospects.

The chances for the emergence of a new "1955 system" should not be overestimated, as there is no longer faction system in LDP, which constituted its organizing and human-resource capacity. Within Japanese political traditions the "super" party can only exist if the effective mechanisms of image making, which have been provided by factional system, are present. Moreover, a voter used to be more individually oriented before, which allowed the LDP to stay in power for a long time, as most failures and misfortunes were associated with particular politicians but not with the party itself. However, over the last two decades a voter tends to elect the party, but not the politician. Thus, if there is any failure, it is the party, which is to be blamed. The opinion polls confirm this statement: the level of support of the ruling party regularly falls dramatically within the first half a year, since it had come into power. Such situation creates a permanent demand for a "fresh" political force, which presents additional possibilities for reformation of political environment.

In this light the third scenario appears, i.e. "patchwork quilt type" of coalition governance. Its actualization has been promoted by a high level of volatility of political party system in bipolar era. Parties experience the period of their birth, dissolution, disintegration, merging, new alliances and coalitions, which at times seem to be most unnatural. Some parties, without which it is hard to imagine the development of a political party system of bipolar period, have degraded and turned into marginal political forces (like it happened to the socialists). At the same time, at the end of XX century, the Democratic Party Japan marked the appearance of a new political force, which is able, as the further developments have shown, to challenge the dominance of liberal democrats.

Coming back to power in 1996, liberal democrats could no longer do without coalition partners - at first it was Sakigake Party, then the Liberal Party and finally Komeito. From the very beginning the Democratic Party also had to form a coalition with SDP and the People's New Party. Coalition governance make the ruling party adjust the realization of its policies to the view, accepted by ally parties. For instance, DPJ taking into consideration the position of the social democrats, who were forming the coalition in 2009-2010, had to renounce their attempts to limit arms export, connected with Japan-US joint development of ballistic missile defense.

Coalition governance can be implemented in several variants: a "large coalition" of two big parties, a coalition of one big and one or several medium parties (like LDP and Komeito), and finally, a diverse coalition of minor and medium parties without any certain leadership, that stands against one big party (or several big parties). In any of these variants, except for the first one, which is least likely to happen, minor and medium parties play a key role.

The problem of coalition governments actualized the significance of minor parties in political life of Japan. The boom time for minor parties is correlated with the tendencies in electoral behavior of Japanese voters, who regularly express disappointment in mainstream parties. Since the division of LDP in 1993, there have been more that 30 parties active on Japanese political arena, which had their representatives in the Diet. It is the minor and medium parties like Japan Restoration Party, Komeito, Your Party and even Green Wind Party having their factions in the Parliament, which have the key to resolve political crises, that affects Japan`s stability from time to time. Especially the support, provided by minor parties is critical under the conditions of the "twisted parliament", when the government needs a two-thirds majority in the Lower House in order to override the veto in the Upper one.

The peculiarities of the electoral system also favor minor parties. For instance, a large number of seats in both houses, for which the members are elected, based on proportional representation (i.e. on the basis of party lists). In such districts marginalized political forces, which are unable to compete with mainstream parties in the majority districts, have more chance to be seated in the parliament. One more favorable factor is that the election time to the Upper House does not overlap with the Lower House elections. If the elections to both Houses were held simultaneously, they would certainly be in a less favorable situation, compared to the large parties, which have sufficient financial and human resource capacities to concentrate on both elections at the same time.

Looking ahead, it is certainly difficult to deny that minor parties will preserve its sometimes significant role in in political processes in Japan. Minor parties will certainly continue to emerge out of the remnants of the mainstream parties, will reunite with each other and with large parties and will voluntary dissolve. The rise of political populism, which makes ambitious politicians who are dissatisfied with their status in the mainstream parity abandon it and create their own party, also acts in favor of minor parties. It was the case with the liberal democrats, who had become the leaders of their own parties - Y.Masuzoe, the head of New Renaissance Party (Shinto Kaikaku), T. Hiranume, the chairman of "Stand Up, Japan" Party (Tachiagare Nippon), Y.Watanabe - Your Party leader.

In reality the political environment is subject to several differently directed tendencies, which have a direct relevance for coalition governance. On the one hand, the volatility effect of political party environment does not contribute to consolidation of political forces and generates the phenomenon of minor parties as a form of protest moods manifestation among the minorities. In this sense, minor parties of the second decade of the twenty-first century, are starting to perform the original function of the party as a political institute.

However, on the other hand, there is also a centripetal tendency, articulated as a polarization effect. This tendency is especially vivid during the national general elections 2012-2013, which clearly demonstrated, that only relatively large political parties have a real chance to survive with the existing regulations. In fact, one can speak of two or three system-based parties, which are able to provide a real political alternative in all constituencies of the country. Other parties are most likely to be viewed as potential candidates for political coalitions to be formed with one of the large parties. Therefore, the polarization effect make any party of the "third", "forth" of other poles lean towards one of the two main forces.

The polarization effect is promoted by a relatively narrow political space for the niche parties, compared to many other countries. In a historical sense, in Japan there has never been the need of the political protection of the minority rights, based on race, ethnical, religion, gender or other, therefore, there has never been political institutionalization of the interests of such minorities. Moreover, economically Japanese society is relatively homogeneous, mainly constituted by a middle class, and contradictions between labor and capital are not intransigent.

Japanese voters, who have a more protective type of consciousness than in other countries, are apt to support first of all those parties, which have more chances to come to power, which also adds to the polarization of the political party environment. As it has already been mentioned, there is a stereotype in public consciousness, that rise to power is the ultimate goal of political parties for which they may even sacrifice their ideological principles. From this point of view, the "third pole" parties preserve their potential as political actors, who may adjust the course of the ruling coalition to the particular needs of certain social groups and society classes. From this point of view a typical example can be considered a longtime ally of LDP - Komeito Party, which many view as a "pacifist wing" of LDP.

There is also a possible scenario, when there will be no real political reformation, since it also requires large financial and organizational efforts. It is clear that the existing opposition parties showed their best possible results at the concluded elections. Therefore, the "one large - several medium parties" model might survive for quite a long time. However, the preservation of DPJ in its present form provides a new chance for the Communists. In the absence of the center-left party with a coherent ideology, many electors would vote for CPJ, if it shifted away from its radical principles to more moderate positions on the issues of security policy and foreign affairs, concentrating on socially oriented problems.


Dmitry Streltsov Elections to the House of Councillors: Certain Results and Contemplations

The article analyses the results of elections to the upper House of the Japanese Parliament, held on July 21, 2013. The author underlines that the main reason for the victory of Liberal-Democratic Party lies not in the high level of its electoral support, but in the fragmentation of the opposition. The paper examines in detail the key scenarios for further development of the party-political system of Japan, including the formation of the classic two-party system and the rule of a coalition government with multiple attendance.

Keywords: House of Councillors, the Liberal Democratic Party, electoral support, absenteeism, two-party system, coalition government, small parties.


[1] Yomiuri Shimbun 2.07.2013

[2] Ref Strelcov D.V. Electoral Reform in Modern Japan / D.V.Stralcov // (Oriens). - 2012. - № 4. - P. 62-70.

[3] The Brookings Institution. Falk Auditorium. Japan's Policy Agenda After the July Election: Gridlock Broken? www.brookings.edu/~/media/events/2013/7/25 japan/20130725_japans_policy_agenda_transcript.pdf. P.7

[4] http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/feature/fe6100/koumoku/20130724.htm

[5] http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/feature/fe6100/koumoku/20130724.htm

[6] Yomiuri Shimbun. 27.07.2013.

[7] Yomiuri Shimbun. 21.07.2013.

[8] Cited by Asahi Shimbun. 17.08.2009.

[9] Banno Junji. Nihon seiji "shippai" no kenkyu (Research on failure in Japanese Politics) Tokyo, 2010. P.263.

[10] Yamaguchi Jiro. Seiken kotai to wa nan datta no ka (What did the change of power bring?) Tokyo, 2012. P.236.