The Sorry State of Japan’s Opposition Parties Ahead of Sunday’s Snap Elections

The Sorry State of Japan’s Opposition Parties Ahead of Sunday’s Snap Elections
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Party of Hope leader Yuriko Koike and other leaders of Japan’s major political parties pose for photographers, Tokyo, Oct. 8, 2017 (AP photo by Koji Sasahara).

When he recently called for snap elections to be held on Oct. 22, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe likely viewed his rising approval ratings in recent opinion polls as creating opportune conditions for him to consolidate power. Despite what appeared to be a serious challenge from his one-time colleague Yuriko Koike, who now heads an opposition party but has decided not to run herself, any threat from the opposition to Abe and his Liberal Democratic Party has since dimmed. In an email interview, J. Berkshire Miller, a senior visiting fellow with the Japan Institute of International Affairs in Tokyo and senior fellow on East Asia at the Tokyo-based Asian Forum Japan, explains why Japan’s opposition parties have historically struggled, why Koike’s party might meet the same fate, and what it all means for Japanese democracy.

WPR: Why have Japan’s opposition parties struggled historically to pose a credible challenge to the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, or LDP?

J. Berkshire Miller: The Liberal Democratic Party has dominated modern Japanese politics since the 1950s. This has been the case with the exception of two periods: from 1994 to 1996, when Japan had three short-lived administrations run by opposition parties; and from 2009 to 2012, when the Democratic Party of Japan, or DPJ, took power and spectacularly flopped shortly after. There have been a host of reasons historically why opposition parties have failed to gain traction against the LDP, including the LDP’s relationships with special interest groups in Japan, its capacity to transform itself and its ability to sell its image as the responsible party attached to the longstanding security alliance with the United States.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.

More World Politics Review