The 1955 system (55年体制), also known as the 'one-and-a-half party system', refers to the party system in Japan from 1955 to 1993 in which the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) successively held majority government while the major opposition the Japan Socialist Party (JSP) was incapable of forming an alternative. The terms 1955 system and one-and-a-half system are credited to Junnosuke Masumi who describes the system of 1955 as "a grand political dam into which the history of Japanese politics surge.” The years of Japan under 1955 regime witnessed the economic miracle, but also the dominance of the ruling party in the Diet, with an undergirded tight connection between the bureaucracy and the business sector. Due to a series of LDP scandals and the 1992 burst of Japanese asset price bubble, LDP lost its majority in the House of Representatives in the 1993 general election.
- 1 Background
- 2 Establishment of the 1955 System
- 3 LDP dominance in the 1955 system
- 4 The fall of the system
- 5 See also
- 6 References
Pre-1955 Multiparty System
After World War II, Japan was controlled by the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers (SCAP). SCAP aimed at the eradication of militarism and the promotion of democratization in Japan, and therefore it issues a series of policies to arrest suspected war criminals which shuffled the political power in Japan. Power of parties on the right side of the political spectrum lost declined in the immediate post war periods due to the purge. The Japan Progressive Party lost about 90% of the seats in the purge, while the Japan Liberal Party lost about 45%. Meanwhile, since many parties on the left were only legalized under the command of SCAP after the WW2, they were barely influenced by the purge. As a result, the Socialist Party (日本社会党) led by Tetsu Katayama (片山哲) won the first general election after the enforcement of the constitution of Japan.
Although at the time no formal regulations about how to form a coalition government existed, there was a consensus among the major parties that a coalition government should be formed to manage the post-war economic problems. Nonetheless, which party would be included in the coalition took a long process of negotiations. Both a four-party coalition excluding the Communist Party and a three-party coalition excluding both the Communist Party and the Liberal Party were suggested within the socialists. The Liberal party, led by anticommunist Shigeru Yoshida (吉田茂), showed great reluctance of joining the coalition. At a meeting between the Katayama and Yoshida in May 19, 1947, the Liberal Party asked Katayama to “break off with the leftists” in return of its participation in the coalition. Since the Socialist Party had already claimed to officially cut ties with the Communist Party earlier, it refused such demand. The lengthy coalition-building process ended up with a government headed by the Socialist Party, the Democratic Party, and the National Cooperative Party.
The Katayama-led coalition government did not last more than a year due to opposition from both inside the Socialist Party and outside. In order to form a coalition, Katayama had to make concessions which departed from original policy proposals, which further facilitated the split between the leftist faction and the rightist faction within the party. At the same time, policies which Katayama did implement, such as nationalization of coal and mine production, drove the conservatives away.
After the failure of Katayama cabinet, voters lost confidence in the Socialist Party, which led to the takeover of government by Yoshida Shigeru. In the general election of 1949, the Democratic Liberal Party led by Yoshida won a majority in the House of representatives with 269 seats out of 466 seats, while the Socialist Party won only 48 seats. This was the first majority cabinet in post-war Japan.
Yoshida Shigeru organized five cabinets as a prime minister between 1946 to 1954. The diplomatic, economic, and security policies which Yoshida adopted when he was in power were altogether referred as the “Yoshida Doctrine”. These policies remained influential even after him being voted out of the office by a no-confidence motion by the “Yoshida students” who followed his ideology. The Yoshida Doctrine has three major components: 1. Japan relies on its alliance with the U.S. for national security; 2. Japan preserves a low level of self-defense capacity; 3. Japan should concentrate on the reconstruction of domestic economy. The Yoshida Doctrine set the tone for Japan’s economic miracle and alignment with the West. However, Yoshida’s “one man” leadership and anti-communist stance was criticized and eventually led to the defection of many Diet members from his party to the new Democratic Party, causing his cabinet to resign on December 7, 1954.
Fall of Yoshida Shigeru
The criticisms of Yoshida cabinet mainly focused on three issues:
- In 1951, The San Francisco Peace Treaty and the Security Treaty Between the United States and Japan was signed under Yoshida cabinet. The Peace Treaty was signed without the communist bloc’s presence, which was condemned by the Communist Party for its anti-communist stance. The Security Treaty was criticized by both the Communist Party and the Socialist Party for the risk of remilitarization, while also criticized by the conservatives for putting Japan in a subordinate position, since Japan was asked to provide military base for the U.S.’s force.
- During the fifth Yoshida cabinet, several bills were passed with the strong opposition of the Leftist Socialist Party of Japan and the Rightist Socialist Party of Japan, including the Strike Control Act, the Mutual Defense Assistance Agreement between Japan and the United States of America, two education acts which restrict the political participation of school teachers, amendment to the Police Act, Self-Defense Forces Act. Among which, the amendment to the Police Act was steamrolled with the opposition parties absent from the Diet.
- The Yoshida cabinet was also involved in two major corruption cases. One is known as the Hozen Keizai Kai Incident (保全経済会事件). Masutomi Ito, the director of a financial institution Hozen Keizai Kai which, was accused of fraud and suspected of making political bribery, which resulted in the arrests of several conservative politicians. The other is known as the Shipbuilding Bribery (造船疑獄), in which the shipping business and shipbuilding business were proved to be making pay-off to conservative politicians. Influential politicians in the ruling party such as Eisaku Sato (佐藤栄作) and Hayato Ikeda (池田勇人) were suspected as bribe takers. The Yoshida cabinet reacted to this incident by stopping the arrest of Eisaku Sato.
The three controversies led to the gathering of anti-Yoshida forces. On October 20, 1954, anti-Yoshida conservatives formed a coalition party: the Japan Democratic Party (日本民主党). The Japan Democratic Party along with the Leftist Socialist Party of Japan and the Rightist Socialist Party of Japan tabled a no-confidence motion against the cabinet on December 6 and won the majority. As a result, Yoshida Cabinet resigned on December 7 after six years of rule.
Establishment of the 1955 System
Merger of the Japan Socialist Party (JSP)
Within the Socialist party, ideological conflicts had long been a problem. The leftists in the party adopted a Marx-Lenin ideology as China, while the rightists leaned towards a socialist welfare nation under a capitalist system. The San Francisco Peace Treaty and the Security Treaty Between the United States and Japan signed in 1951 triggered the final split. The right socialists agreed on the San Francisco Peace Treaty but were against the Security Treaty, due to their constitutionalist stance, while the left socialists were against both treaties due to their exclusion of Soviet Union. On October 23, 1951, the old Socialist Party officially split into the Leftist Socialist Party of Japan (左派社会党) and the Rightist Socialist Party of Japan (右派社会党).
After the split, however, the socialists soon realized the necessity of merging into one party to fight against the anti-communist approach taken by the GHQ and the conservatives, which is commonly referred to as the reverse course (逆コース). After the San Francisco Peace Treaty came into effect, influential members from the Rightist Socialist Party of Japan came back from the purge and boosted the power of the rightists. The Leftist Socialist Party of Japan also expanded its power with the support of the General Council of Trade Unions of Japan, also known as Sohyo(日本労働組合総評議会). Meanwhile, the conservatives were suffering criticisms from the public for the corruption scandals and Security Treaty. Sensing the possibility of success, despite their ideological differences, to take power from the political right and fight against the anti-communist movement, the socialists decided to reunite and formed the Japan Socialist Party (JSP) on October 13, 1955.
One crucial external factor that caused the merger of JSD is Sohyo. Sohyo, the abbreviation of the General Council of Trade Unions of Japan, was a trade confederation in Japan which was established on July 11, 1950, soon after the start of the Korean War. It incorporated about 48% of organized workers in Japan. Initially, Sohyowas the unified body of anti-communist unions, but it soon changed from a centralist stance to a left stance due to the remilitarization tendency of Japan shown in the Korean War. Due to the rationalization strategy taken by the conservative government, Japanese workers, particular those worked in small and median-sized factories were facing slow wage increase and even dismissals. In response, Sohyo organized the anti-rationalization campaign and pressured the merger of JSP.
Merger of the Liberal Democratic Party of Japan (LDP)
In the 1955 general election, the conservative Japan Democratic Party won the ruling position. Meanwhile, the Leftist Socialist Party of Japan was able to win 17 more seats. The expansion of Leftist Socialist Party of Japan and the soon formation of the leftists and rightists in the socialist camp into JSP became a more substantial threat for the conservatives. As a result, also in 1955, the Japan Democratic Party and the Japan Liberal Party merged as Liberal Democratic Party of Japan (LDP).
The expansion of the socialist power also worried the Zaikai(business community). Zaikai had incentives to secure a conservative government since it would pump money into the big companies to keep their competitiveness, stay in a close relationship with the U.S. to maintain a liberal trade policy, and deal with the intensified anti-rationalization labor movement. Therefore, to counter the socialist power, the Zaikai pressured the Liberal Party and the Democratic Party to merge.
Outcome of the merger: 1955 System
After the formation of the two major parties, JSP and LDP, a general election was held in 1958. Although the Socialist Party was gaining more power at the time, the conservative Liberal Party and Democratic Party had more voters from the beginning, not to mention after the merge of the two. As a result, the LDP won almost as twice as many seats as JSP. The 1955 system, also known as “one and a half system”, was established, in which LDP always as the dominant party and JSP never able to be a strong enough alternative.
1955 system essentially was the symbol of the two parties’ confrontation over two major issues: the 1946 constitution and the security treaty. During the occupation years, Minister Matsumoto Joji (松本烝治) drafted the 1946 constitution under the demand of General Douglas MacArthur. Unsatisfied with the draft, the draft was later then revised by the SCAP. Therefore, the 1946 constitution was more of American authorship and the banner for SCAP’s goal of democratization of Japan. The conservative parties had the consideration of constitution revision since its enactment. Although varying in extent, the revision of Article 9 to permit a rearmament program had been widely argued with the conservative parties since the Yoshida cabinet. At the same time, the socialist parties opposed any revision of the constitution.
Another issue was the security Treaty signed in 1951, a product of the late occupation years. Different from the 1946 constitution which aims at wiping out the militarism in Japan, the Security Treaty was the consequence of U.S. securing its military strength in Asia to counter the communist threat in the Cold War. JSP strongly opposed the Security Treaty due to the underlying possibility of further rearmament and even revival militarism in Japan, while LDP argued that the presence of the U.S. army in Japan was merely for self-defense.
LDP dominance in the 1955 system
The electoral system that was used under 1955 system is known as the Single Nontransferable Vote (SNTV). Under SNTV, each constituency has multiple seats to be filled. Voters instead of voting for parties, votes for individual candidates, and seats of the constituency go to whoever wins the most votes. One problem of such electoral system is that the fair allocation of seats to different parties are not taken into consideration: Since the winners of most votes eventually get the seats, candidates of one party can take all the seats of one constituency.
Under such electoral system, LDP with its massive political donation put other opposition parties into disadvantage. Due to LDP’s ties with big companies, the party directed the financial resources to individual candidates and enabled them to promise patronage to their voters, with a focus on the agricultural population, while the reallocation of Diet seats did not keep up with the migration from rural to urban area due to industrialization. Aside from the pork-barrel spending, the LDP candidates also cultivated personalism through Koenkai (後援会) in their own constituency. Politicians went to the locals’ wedding, funeral, birthday parties and so on. In such occasions, politicians often brought considerable amount of cash gift. Candidates would even organize activities such as hot springs for their supporters.
On the account of its self-assertiveness, LDP unilaterally altered the rules for campaigning. Profiting of its constituted koenkai canvas, the competition rules were toughened for the Opposition. The formal campaign periods were short (and shortened further over time), television and radio advertising being prohibited and low limits placed on posters and handbills. Through the campaign, however, each candidate was granted two five-minute slots on television when a stream of candidates would line up and take turns in front of a stationary microphone to run through their list of promises right after which the next candidate would take other. Such rules of play were discouraging and difficult for a would-be challenger while LDP benefitted from the unfair restraints of participation by the sheer amount of runners.
Another neglected flaw of the electoral system which bolstered LDP's dominance was the urgent need for redistricting in the wake of the post-war rapid population shifts from the rural to urban areas. The swelling urban populations were much trickier for LDP politicians to fit within the distributed koenkai grassroot structure as they were more peripatetic and atomized than the traditional rural household. These voters had new policy demands (ex. issues related to environmental deterioration in the 1960s) which conflicted with the ones practiced by LDP for their industry and big-business support. Under the obsolete district constituencies, the farmers retained disproportionate political influence which as a consequence of pork-barrel desires rather than by concern over issues of broad social policy, stagnated democratic alternation.
Under the current electoral rules, LDP was motivated to develop loyal personal support for the farmer's voter group. Being a nationally organized group of voters and united around the single issue of agricultural protectionism, the party could tune higher import tariffs and subsidies to support the less productive small businesses which because of their large numbers, could turn out at elections and vote in predictable ways.
Bureaucratization of policymaking
Since the institution of the 1955 system, the legislative independence has been declining in the face of a growth in the combined legislative power of the bureaucracy and the ruling conservative party. Indicators that point to this are the success rates of governmental and individual member bills; the declining rate of amendments added; and the singular lack of success for opposition-sponsored bills. For example, the mere submission of nongovernmentally sponsored measures is extremely difficult. In the Lower House, at least 20 representatives must support a "member" bill before it can be introduced, while in the Upper House ten supporters are required. Moreover, should the bill require the expenditure of state funds, fifty and twenty supporters respectively are necessary.
The chance for success of bureaucratic bills that was only 1.3 times greater than that for individual Diet-generated bills under the Occupation and about twice as great from 1952 to 1955, it augmented to 7 times greater by 1974, when approximately 90% of all successful legislation has been cabinet-sponsored. In addition, the Diet has not been notably active as a potential amender for which there are two devices open: it can either "amend" (shusei), or it can "add supplementary resolution of clarification" (futai ketsugi). From 1955 to 1960 just over one-third of all successful government legislation went through one or another of these processes. In the 48th Diet (1964-1965) this rate was 17% and in the 63rd Diet (1970) it was 15%. Finally, opposition bills had no chance of success: of 317 opposition bills introduced from the 37th (1960) through the 46th (1963-1964) Diets, not one became law. These numbers attest that by the time bills materialize in the Diet a general agreement has already been reached, both within and between the bureaucracy and the LDP. In such an environment, opposition and the generation of successful alternatives from within the Diet itself has become extremely difficult.
Besides, the bureaucracy wields considerable and increasing power through the use of nonlegislative devices such a subordinances and communications, and through its varying degrees of dominance over technical and nonpartisan advisory groups.
The Policy Affairs Research Council (政務調査会 seimu chōsakai) or "PARC" was the major policymaking body within the LDP. Its members were the LDP representatives in both legislative houses, and it was the basic forum in which the party discussed and negotiated government policy. The policymaking under this system did not comply with the usual model of a parliamentary cabinet government which involves strong cabinet leadership and coordination. Instead, representatives who were not in the cabinet were often the other pivot of policy through their formal roles PARC. In consultation with bureaucrats and interest groups, the council already had input into policy before the cabinet and prime minister or upper party executives could shape it further. At its height in the mid-1980s, PARC had as many as seventeen divisions.
Japan's industrial policy under the 1955 system was undergirded by a political logic that supports firms and whole industries that would not have been sustainable in a less-regulated economy, imposed high prices and taxes, limited choice in the marketplace, and rigid career paths. In spite of the fact that Japan came out of war with a theoretical comparative advantage towards light manufacturing which would match its profile of low-capital, abundant-labor economy, the war skewed its economic profile toward heavy industries. The large war companies lobbied for a development strategy favoring heavy industry and received subsidies and regulatory favoritism. In exchange, LDP members were awarded with campaign contributions to be able to stay electorally competitive against each other in the multi-member districts.
The Heavy Industries Bureau of the Ministry of International Trade and Industry assisted the heavy industries with policies such as:
- Limiting entry and often regulating the market pricing to help stabilize profits.
- Privileging access to cheap loans from the Japan Development Bank
- Domestic government budget subsidies and tax breaks as well as favored access to foreign exchange and tariff protections.
Such strategy of developmental policy which has strong state involvement in developmental orientation is typical of late industrialing countries and in terms of international political economy, follows the model of the developmental state. Explicit implication implies a degree of corruption, which during Kakuei Tanaka's office in 1971-1972 resulted in media noticing corruption which, in one instance, resulted in the Lockheed scandal.
The fall of the system
Global Pressure and the Collapse of Bubble Economy
As a corollary of the Plaza Accord of 1985 when Japan agreed to allow substantial appreciation of the yen, the Japanese government reduced the interests marginally above the rate of inflation as a domestic relief strategy. This resulted in banks and corporations going on an enormous spending spree with nearly free money, bidding up the price of real estate and other assets.
Against the faith of many people that Japan would come to dominate the world economy, the Japanese asset price bubble lead to a bubble crash after the raising of interest rates of the Bank of Japan in 1990 and firms together with their jobs were in mortal danger. In this context and on the background of LDP's short-term relieved pressure from the already shaky electoral coalition between exporters and the non-traded sectors, the voting public expressed disenchantment toward the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.
The new electoral system following the 1994 Electoral reform which was claimed to reduce corruption and high elections costs, promote more policy debates, and encourage a two-party system. As a consequence of this reform as well as the change of voter behavior and the change of the international environment, the system collapsed completely following the 2005 and 2009 general elections which demonstrated significant shifts in both the foundations of party support and the importance of national swings in support for one party or another. Since 2005, urban-rural differences in the foundations of the leading parties have changed dramatically, and Japan has moved from a system dominated by locally based, individual candidacies toward a two-party system in which both party popularity and personal characteristics influence electoral success or failure.
The specialist on theoretical knowledge of legislative institutions and electoral systems, Michael Thies, argues that majoritarian institutions of the Anglo-American variety would have pushed politics toward broader coalitions, reducing the premiums captured by organized groups with extreme preferences, and appealing more to the interests of unorganized, diverse voters. A study on the representation of unorganized groups under proportional representation (featuring multi-member voting-districts) concludes that closed-list proportional representation makes legislators generally more responsive to interest groups and less responsive to unorganized voters than single-member districts. An even representation would have given labor a persistent and politically potent voice of the kind seen in continental Europe.
- 1947 Japanese general election
- 1949 Japanese general election
- 1955 Japanese general election
- 1958 Japanese general election
- 1993 Japanese general election
- 1994 Electoral reform
- Liberal Democratic Party
- Social Democratic Party
- Japanese economic miracle
- Government-business relations in Japan
- Tanaka Kakuei
- 1926-2010., Masumi, Junnosuke; 1926-2010., 升味準之輔 (1985). Gendai seiji : 1955-nen igo (Shohan ed.). Tōkyō: Tōkyō Daigaku Shuppankai. ISBN 978-4130330268. OCLC 15423787.
- 1928-, Kishimoto, Kōichi (1997). Politics in modern Japan : development and organization. Japan Echo. pp. 21–23. ISBN 978-4915226076. OCLC 38224699.
- B., Jansen, Marius (2000). The making of modern Japan. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. p. 675. ISBN 978-0674003347. OCLC 44090600.
- 1962-, Kohno, Masaru (1997). Japan's postwar party politics. Princeton University Press. pp. 50–53. ISBN 978-0691026299. OCLC 441854586.
- 梁田, 浩祺 (1981). 五五年体制と日本社会党. 東京: ありえす書房. pp. 81–84.
- J., Bayley, Paul (1996). Postwar Japan : 1945 to the present. Blackwell. p. 58. ISBN 978-0631179016. OCLC 807111830.
- Sugita, Yoneyuki (2016). "The Yoshida Doctrine as a Myth" (PDF). The Japanese Journal of American Studies. 27.
- 吉田, 裕 (2004). 戦後改革と逆コース. 東京: 吉川弘文館. pp. 81–85.
- 歴史学研究会 (1990). 五五年体制と安保闘争. 東京: 青木書店. p. 82.
- "造船疑獄で指揮権発動". 毎日新聞. 21 April 1954. Retrieved 18 January 2019.
- Nakakita, Koji (2008). "Incorporating Japanese labor into the Free World: Cold War diplomacy and economic interdependence, 1949–1964". Labor History. 49 (2): 199–222. doi:10.1080/00236560801950972.
- 1957-, Kume, Ikuo (1998). Disparaged success : labor politics in postwar Japan. Cornell Univ. Press. ISBN 978-0801433641. OCLC 833127781.
- Masumi, Junnosuke (1988). "The 1955 System in Japan and Its Subsequent Development". Asian Survey. 28 (3): 286–306. doi:10.1525/as.1988.28.3.01p0146p. ISSN 0004-4687.
- The politics of electoral systems. Gallagher, Michael, 1951-, Mitchell, Paul, 1964-. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2005. ISBN 9780191531514. OCLC 68623713.CS1 maint: others (link)
- Ward, Robert E. (1956). "The Constitution and Current Japanese Politics". Far Eastern Survey. 25 (4): 49–58. doi:10.2307/3023907. ISSN 0362-8949. JSTOR 3023907.
- R., Packard, George. Protest in tokyo - the security treaty crisis of 1960. pp. 3–22. ISBN 9780691650746. OCLC 1023228016.
- 1945-, Hrebenar, Ronald J. (1986). The Japanese party system : from one-party rule to coalition government. Berton, Peter, 1922-2014. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press. ISBN 978-0813303468. OCLC 13455801.
- McCall., Rosenbluth, Frances (2010). Japan transformed : political change and economic restructuring. Thies, Michael F. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press. ISBN 9780691135915. OCLC 428926469.
- Pempel, T. J. (November 1974). "The Bureaucratization of Policymaking in Postwar Japan". American Journal of Political Science. 18 (4): 647–664. doi:10.2307/2110551. ISSN 0092-5853. JSTOR 2110551.
- Misawa, Shigeo (1967-05-30). "OUTLINE OF POLICY-DECISION MAKING PROCESS SINCE 1955". The Annuals of Japanese Political Science Association. 18: 5–33, 2. doi:10.7218/nenpouseijigaku1953.18.0_5. ISSN 0549-4192.
- 1965-, Crystal, Jonathan. Unwanted company : foreign investment in American industries. Ithaca. ISBN 9781501723612. OCLC 1042219263.
- Thies, Michael F.; Scheiner, Ethan; Reed, Steven R. (2012-07-14). "The End of LDP Dominance and the Rise of Party-Oriented Politics in Japan". The Journal of Japanese Studies. 38 (2): 353–376. doi:10.1353/jjs.2012.0037. ISSN 1549-4721.
- Thies, Michael F.; Bawn, Kathleen (2003). "A Comparative Theory of Electoral Incentives: Representing the Unorganized Under PR, Plurality, and Mixed-Member Electoral Systems". Rochester, NY. doi:10.2139/ssrn.1158628. SSRN 1158628.