JJPS: “Japan’s LDP-Komeito Government in a Mixed Electoral System”

My latest peer-reviewed article… an analysis of Japan’s LDP-Komeito ruling coalition, its theoretical significance, and practical implications for Japanese politics and foreign policy…is now forthcoming in the Japanese Journal of Political Science. This piece was coauthored with Professor Ko Maeda of the University of North Texas.

It is an honor to be published in the first issue of JJPS under its new co-editors, Profs. Junko Kato (University of Tokyo) and Christina Davis (Harvard University), who have recently begun a five-year term leading the journal.

(A note to readers more interested in implications for Japanese politics and foreign policy than coalition politics/theory: pages 6-19 may be of greatest interest to you!) 

  • Abstract: Political parties’ behavior in coalition formation is commonly explained by their policy-, vote-, and office-seeking incentives. From these perspectives, the twenty-year partnership of Japan’s ruling conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and its pacifistic Komeito junior coalition partner is an anomalous case. The longevity, closeness, and nature of their unlikely partnership challenges core assumptions in existing theories of coalition politics. LDP-Komeito cooperation has sustained for two decades despite vastly different support bases and ideological differences on fundamental policy issues. LDP leaders also show no signs of abandoning the much smaller Komeito despite enjoying a single-party majority. We argue that the remarkable durability of this puzzling partnership results primarily from the two parties’ electoral incentives and what has effectively become codependence under Japan’s mixed electoral system. Our analysis also demonstrates that being in a coalition can induce significant policy compromises, even from a much larger senior partner. Beyond theoretical implications, these phenomena yield important real-world consequences for Japanese politics: especially, a far less dominant LDP than the party’s Diet seat total suggests, and Komeito’s remarkable ability to punch significantly above its weight and constrain its far larger senior partner, even on the latter’s major national security policy priorities.
  • UNOFFICIAL Japanese translation:連立形成過程における政党の行動はこれまで主に、政策追求・得票増大・政権入りのそれぞれの誘因から説明されてきた。約20年に及ぶ自民・公明のパートナー関係は、これらの理論的枠組みからは逸脱事例と考えられ、その長さ・親密さ・協力関係の在り方は、連立についての既存の理論の再検討を求めている。自公の協力関係は、支持基盤と政策志向についての両党の大きな違いにもかかわらず約20年続いてきた。自民党は、一党単独過半数を持つにも関わらず、公明党との連立を解消しそうにない。本論文は、両党の協力関係は、小選挙区比例代表並立制の下での両党の選挙戦略と相互依存関係に基づくものだと主張する。また、この分析から、連立に入っていることによって政党が(特に連立内で大きな方の政党が)重大な政策上の譲歩を行い得ることが明らかにされる。理論的な面からの貢献に加えて、本論文は、自民党の実際の強さはその議席率の大きさに見合うほどでないこと、公明党がそのサイズにも関わらず自民党の政策追求を抑制する強い力を持つことなど、この連立関係が現実政治上に持つ含意も論じる。
  • Keywords: Coalitions, Electoral systems, Japan, Liberal Democratic Party, LDP, Komeito, Constitution, Article 9, Security, policy

If you have any difficulty accessing our article on the Japanese Journal of Political Science‘s website, please let me know. Or you can access the (freely downloadable) AM version here.