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A Two Party Japan?

Time Enough

New Left Wing Political Queers-Micheal Moran
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So we all know that Japan is essentially a One and Half Party state what with the domination of the Liberal Democratic Party since the 1950s. Apart from the coalition of chaos in 1994 and the Democratic Party in 2009 the Liberal Democratic Party has been the party of choice.

So with a POD no earlier than 1955, what ways can Japan be an actual Two Party (though more likely a Two and a Half Party system) state?
 

Aznavour

Well-known member
Published by SLP
Every once in a while I come back to this idea but never looked too deeply into how to solve this pickle.

On the Left, you have things like the continuous splits that kept tearing the Socialist Party into two, as well as the assassination of Inejiro Asanuma in 1960.

On the Right you’d have to keep the Liberals and Democrats apart, that’d way each party would hog a third of the electorate and keep things competitive, but at the same time you’d have to keep Hatoyama, Yoshida and the rest from figuring out the obvious solution to this stalemate. Factional struggles leading to “I’ll just found my own party” would have to be kept alive, maybe throw in a Hatoyama-Yoshida feud.

Keeping their predecessors, The Seiyūkai and Kenseikai/Minseitō/etc apart in the 20s and 30s was easily done in large part due to exterior circumstances such as the Army-Navy rivalry and different financial policy, IIRC, whereas in the post-war there’s other priorities, much like the ones that pushed the previously opposed German Catholics and Conservatives and Bavarians into the CDU/CSU.


So keeping a strong Socialist Party and a weak Democratic Party that nevertheless is strong enough to take votes off the Liberals might be a solution.

But since a stable, competent Socialist Party is bound to make the Americans nervous and meddle more (and they already meddled quite a lot during the Cold War), this could cause them to bet more heavily on one of the two Rightist Parties, creating a different imbalance.
 

Time Enough

New Left Wing Political Queers-Micheal Moran
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So keeping a strong Socialist Party and a weak Democratic Party that nevertheless is strong enough to take votes off the Liberals might be a solution.
It's interesting that both parties merged given how the democratic party was a Liberal Party splinter group, I think you could easily have the Socialist Party reform and merge whilst the Liberal and Democratic Party stay at each other throats. I think Inejiro Asanuma could have lead a strong Socialist Party that wins in 1960 or something, though also I suspect that the Americans would just coup him if he won.

I think an interesting POD could be the 1980 election with the Liberal Democratic Party splintering, Masayoshi Ōhira managing to survive leading to no sympathy vote and the Socialist Party being able to form an awkward coalition of various awkward Left Wing Parties. This could lead to an 80s in which the the Socialist Party is able to achieve a few governments and turn Japan into a Two Party and a half state.
 

Lord Roem

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Yes - this is a very interesting debate. I have only a very limited smattering of Japanese so I confess that my knowledge and know-how is coming from very much an interested amateur perspective and my background in East Asian Economic History. I entirely agree with @Aznavour's views above, especially with regard to Asanuma's assassination. I am loath to ascribe too much to a single individual, but he was unquestionably the most significant figure in the JSP during this period and his death did much to destabilise them. If he had survived, that would perhaps have made the Americans even more interventionist in terms of keeping them out of office. I cannot see him ever becoming Prime Minister, but he may well have entrenched them as a more viable force.

The major issue with the Japanese left has been how enfeebled the trades unions have been in a political sense. Japanese Corporatism has historically been very effective at paying lip-service to worker rights without actually conceding much in the long-term. If you ended up in a position with a more politicised labour movement (perhaps as an outcome from the debate over Kishi's security reforms), that could also lead to a more successful outcome for the Japanese left, but you'd still have to deal with the largest institutional barrier to all this, which is rural gerrymandering. Land reforms during the occupation period were highly successful and helped to entrench the future LDP in the countryside, but they continued to attract controversy in subsequent years as industrialisation saw a large swath of migration into urban areas. The LDP were very effective at mitigating this, but the potential for a dedicated Farmer-Labour Party would be an interesting consideration to take as well.

I'll have a think about this.
 

Time Enough

New Left Wing Political Queers-Micheal Moran
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I entirely agree with @Aznavour's views above, especially with regard to Asanuma's assassination. I am loath to ascribe too much to a single individual, but he was unquestionably the most significant figure in the JSP during this period and his death did much to destabilise them. If he had survived, that would perhaps have made the Americans even more interventionist in terms of keeping them out of office. I cannot see him ever becoming Prime Minister, but he may well have entrenched them as a more viable force.
Keeping the JSP a viable and established force through the 60s would mean they would be best placed to reap the whirlwind of the 70s in which the LDP isn’t looking the best (also the Americans are less likely to do anything because of there own problems).

Now the JSP would probably not have a Pro-Mao person in and probably go with a party moderate. Also I could see the JSP actually trying to get stuff done whilst in office, unlike all the other times an opposition force takes overs in Japanese politics.
The major issue with the Japanese left has been how enfeebled the trades unions have been in a political sense. Japanese Corporatism has historically been very effective at paying lip-service to worker rights without actually conceding much in the long-term. If you ended up in a position with a more politicised labour movement (perhaps as an outcome from the debate over Kishi's security reforms), that could also lead to a more successful outcome for the Japanese left, but you'd still have to deal with the largest institutional barrier to all this, which is rural gerrymandering. Land reforms during the occupation period were highly successful and helped to entrench the future LDP in the countryside, but they continued to attract controversy in subsequent years as industrialisation saw a large swath of migration into urban areas. The LDP were very effective at mitigating this, but the potential for a dedicated Farmer-Labour Party would be an interesting consideration to take as well.
Hmm interesting, part of me wants to say an Conservative Agrarian Party could do well if the LDP managed to fail pork barrelling properly but also Conservative Parties in japan often have a habit of splitting votes everywhere so that’s a problem.

I think you have two eras in which a more unified opposition party to takeover;
The 1970s (and early 80s) and the 1990s. It’s interesting in the really early 90s reading about Japanese politics because folks seemed to assume that the Japanese Socialist Party could get into office on a coalition but then the various LDP splinters appeared and quashed that dream.

Also is there a potential for a two party system to form in the aftermath of 2009 if the Democratic Party was less shit?
 

Octosteel

Active member
I feel like we underrated the very real possibility of a two party system of the DPJ had a successful term from the 2009-2013 period. I'm thinking if Ozawa was PM for the full term instead of three PMs of varying competence. The other thing bringing back the LDP is that they basically formed their own movement conservatism that finally brought the constitutional revisionist elements with the regulationary economic elemrngs which just wasn't there in Abe's first and its proving to not only be coherent and popular. Perhaps if you can keep the Koizumist neoliberals in power, have a more competent DPJ leadership by keeping Ozawa as PM the whole time, you could see the setup for a two party system. At the time, people basically thought we had reached a two party system in Japan. It was just DPJ failing so hard in power that killed it off.
 

Time Enough

New Left Wing Political Queers-Micheal Moran
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I feel like we underrated the very real possibility of a two party system of the DPJ had a successful term from the 2009-2013 period. I'm thinking if Ozawa was PM for the full term instead of three PMs of varying competence. The other thing bringing back the LDP is that they basically formed their own movement conservatism that finally brought the constitutional revisionist elements with the regulationary economic elemrngs which just wasn't there in Abe's first and its proving to not only be coherent and popular. Perhaps if you can keep the Koizumist neoliberals in power, have a more competent DPJ leadership by keeping Ozawa as PM the whole time, you could see the setup for a two party system. At the time, people basically thought we had reached a two party system in Japan. It was just DPJ failing so hard in power that killed it off.
Hmm, so if Ozawa had stayed on and managed to keep the DPJ afloat then once they were out of power they probably wouldn't splinter as much as they did. So we would have a LDP that is Neoliberal in tone vs. a DPJ that is Democratic Centrist/Social Liberal (with Socialist groups amongst them) in tone. Who could you see replacing Ozawa if he had stayed on and been PM? Also how do you stop Abe from getting back in?

I wonder if this would cause the SDP to be squeezed into nothing?
 

Jape

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The problem of a stronger Socialist Party under Asanuma causing even more American interfering could lead to a more competative system down the line, albeit with cost. Here's my back of a fag packet scenario:

Say you have Asanuma leading a growing 'red wave' of popular support for the JSP in the early 1960s. He survives the assassination attempt, only upping his street cred. The CIA nudges Kennedy but he pays little heed, not keen on undermining democracy in an allied former Axis Power. This leads to a position were Asanuma has an outside chance of winning an upcoming election. The zaibatsu and other interested groups are giving the Americans nervous glances. Hung election, JSP the largest party, pro-Asanuma protests, increasing labour unrest.

By this point LBJ is in charge (assume JFK still assassinated) and the situation is more serious. He has some discussions with John McCone. McCone doesn't have the Cold Warrior reputation of his predeccessor Dulles but in less than four years he oversaw coups in the Dominican Republic, Brazil, Ecuador and Guyana, not to mention arming the Hmong in Laos. His part in the Cuban Missile Crisis and opposition to overthrowing Diem have earned him retrospective brownie points but he was as into Domino Theory as anyone.

Launching a coup in 1960s Japan, even a bloodless internal coup, no doubt has many implications I'm not educated on frankly, the role of the JSDF being the biggun'. However if the CIA can lend a hand in establishing an emergency non-socialist government (arrest Diet members, leaving a rump?) it will cause untold butterflies. I'm not informed enough to how authoritarian or permanent such a regime could be, but you'll have the Liberal-Democrats culpable to some extent and when its over, probably a lot of citizens very keen not to have it happen again.

This leads to a post-JSP party (called something uncontroversial like Progressives or whatever) taking power and instituting reforms to the post-war system, including a more open, proportional electoral system.
 

Time Enough

New Left Wing Political Queers-Micheal Moran
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Launching a coup in 1960s Japan, even a bloodless internal coup, no doubt has many implications I'm not educated on frankly, the role of the JSDF being the biggun'. However if the CIA can lend a hand in establishing an emergency non-socialist government (arrest Diet members, leaving a rump?) it will cause untold butterflies. I'm not informed enough to how authoritarian or permanent such a regime could be, but you'll have the Liberal-Democrats culpable to some extent and when its over, probably a lot of citizens very keen not to have it happen again.

This leads to a post-JSP party (called something uncontroversial like Progressives or whatever) taking power and instituting reforms to the post-war system, including a more open, proportional electoral system.
You could maybe get a Chile style situation in which the Left gangs together to win an election and reform the system and then goes back to squabbling. But you would probably see a LDP splintering in that situation because the thing it was created to avoid has happened.

I could see in this world by the Late 70s a Left Coalition booting out the LDP when the economy collapses and implanting Reform in the 80s. Probably mean a more stable 90s in the long run.
 

Bonniecanuck

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Launching a coup in 1960s Japan, even a bloodless internal coup, no doubt has many implications I'm not educated on frankly, the role of the JSDF being the biggun'. However if the CIA can lend a hand in establishing an emergency non-socialist government (arrest Diet members, leaving a rump?) it will cause untold butterflies. I'm not informed enough to how authoritarian or permanent such a regime could be, but you'll have the Liberal-Democrats culpable to some extent and when its over, probably a lot of citizens very keen not to have it happen again.
During the Anpo protests, the director of the Japanese Defence Agency strongly opposed Kishi's wishes to send the JSDF against the protesters. From his and other directors' words, the JSDF could not be used as a partisan political tool, and it would forever tarnish the JSDF's carefully managed public image if it either was armed and committed violence against fellow Japanese citizens, or was disarmed and looked completely inept in the process. And keep in mind these were key figures in the LDP aligned with Kishi's faction.
 

Time Enough

New Left Wing Political Queers-Micheal Moran
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I would say that the biggest problem the Japanese opposition had was that it was divided and that its main element, the Socialist Party, was too left-wing for most Japanese.
I’ve mentioned that the Socialist Party had it’s best chance in the early 80s during a series of scandals involving the LDP whilst the Japanese Socialist Party had taken a more moderate root.

Though it doesn’t overcome the flaw of the divided nature of it in the period.
 
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