Japan Under the DPJ: The Paradox of Political Change Without Policy Change

Journal Articles
15982408 12 3 cover

In 2009, the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) brought an end to the long reign of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). However, despite high expectations, this politically transformative event has not unleashed significant policy change in Japan. Phillip Y. Lipscy and Ethan Scheiner highlight five electoral factors that have acted as important constraints on policy change under DPJ rule. First, majoritarian electoral rules have led to a convergence in the policy positions of the two major political parties. Second, as the parties' policy positions have become more similar, voters have increasingly cast ballots based on “valence” (i.e., nonpolicy) evaluations. Third, large national vote swings have limited the tenure of young, inexperienced candidates who might otherwise serve as the instigators of reform. Fourth, Japan's electoral rules permit inconsistency across policy positions within parties and discourage greater policy coherence. Fifth, the continuing influence of rural regions has limited the scope of policy reform under the DPJ.

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