Crisis Management of Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party: A Look into the Japanese Conservatism (II)
[Sejong Policy Series] No.2019-07
Dr. Lee Myon Woo
Vice President, the Sejong Institute
This study continues from my work A Look into Japanese Conservatism: Prime Minister Abe’s Comeback and Japanese Political Outlook in 2017 and analyzes the power source of Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which represents the Japanese conservatism, in perspective of crisis management. This time I focused on how LDP responded to crises and how successful these responses were. Furthermore, I was able to complement my analysis presented at my previous work by examining specific examples. In 2017, I showed the flexibility of LDP, in other words an ability to respond crises in realistic and flexible manner, and nationalistic and traditional electorate who positively responded to such actions of LDP as power sources of the party and the Japanese conservatism. This time I studied four historical examples to examine how LDP overcame crises: a struggle over security treaty during Kishi cabinet, Prime Minister’s bribery scandal of Tanaka cabinet, the Recruit scandal and Tokyo Sawaga Kyubin scandal between Takeshita and Miyazawa cabinet, and the collapse of LDP to the opposition party following the defeat of general election in 1993.
First, I reviewed my argument about the power of LDP and its essence in responding to crises in flexible but realistic manner. This could be also asked as a question of whether the party can make internal consensus on flexible and realistic solutions at the face of crises. However, it is hard to give a yes or no answer to this question. There were naturally movements to overcome crises, but the question of internal consensus depended on factional dynamics of the time. Nonetheless, it is apparent that LDP possesses a propensity to overcome crisis with realistic and flexible measures.
Second, I analyzed whether the responses of LDP showed positive results in overcoming crises by examining how the electorate assessed responses of LDP at the elections. The results were also mixed. For instance, the result of the general election in 1960 was a huge success for LDP, which presented Ikeda and his “income-doubling” policy in response to the political struggle over security treaty. Ikeda may not had been a deliberate choice of LDP, but, nevertheless, voters acknowledged the response and sent a positive sign to the party.
On the other hand, voters judged LDP differently for its responses in cases of the bribery scandal of Tanaka, a prime minister at that time, and for Tokyo Sagawa Kyubin scandal. LDP presented Takeo Miki as a prime minister in response to Tanaka’s scandal and attempted the reform of election system to overcome scandals in 1990s, which both ended as failures. The number of seats of LDP decreased in both elections, and in particular, LDP lost is position as the ruling party in the latter case. Considering the fact that a return of Japanese electorate’s conservative tendency started in 1970s when the economic crisis began, such results suggest that LDP was not in a circumstance or was missing a leadership to take advantage of existing conservative voters. In other words, the reemergence of Prime Minister Abe signifies that LDP is now in a condition and has a leadership to mobilize its supporting base, and such phenomenon implies that the power of LDP stems from the existence of leaders who can take advantage of changing situations with a conservative perspective.
Volume No: 2019-7
Issue Date: 2020.1.10
Page: 120 pages