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Political Parties, The Liberal Democratic Party

economic liberalization, Liberal Democratic Party, powerful leaders, upper house, coalition government

In post-World War II Japan, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) became the dominant political party. The LDP was created in 1955 from the union of the Liberal Party and the Democratic Party, two conservative parties that emerged in the aftermath of the war. The party’s philosophy is not well defined, but traditionally it emphasized economic development and close ties with the United States. In recent years it has also focused on administrative reform and economic liberalization. For many decades, the party was dominated by relatively stable factions grouped around politically powerful leaders. However, the factions recently have become more volatile. The LDP and its predecessors governed Japan from 1946 until 1993, with the exception of a brief period in 1947-1948, when Socialist Party prime minister Tetsu Katayama formed a coalition government that lasted for ten months. Ashida Hitoshi, leader of the Democratic Party, succeeded Katayama as prime minister and kept the left-center coalition together for another five months.

In 1993 the LDP again lost control of the government. A series of corruption scandals in the late 1980s and early 1990s caused the LDP to lose its majority in the upper house, and the party began to fracture. For several years the LDP was able to maintain control of the Diet through its hold on the more powerful lower house. However, by mid-1993 a number of leading politicians and their supporters had withdrawn from the party, causing the LDP to lose its majority in the lower house on the eve of national elections. The elections produced a one-seat gain for the LDP, but the party did not regain a majority.

An eight-party coalition of opposition parties governed Japan from 1993 to 1996, but the LDP remained the largest single party in the Diet. It returned to power in 1996 when it formed a coalition government with two opposition parties, the Social Democratic Party of Japan (SDPJ) and New Party Sakigake. In 1997 the LDP regained a small majority in the lower house, and the three-party coalition fell apart the following year. To improve its ability to pass legislation in the Diet, the LDP again entered a coalition in 1999, this time with the Liberal Party, a group of former LDP members.

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