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Power Shuffles and Policy Processes

Coalition Government in Japan in the 1990s

Edited by Hideo Otake

The 1990s were a time of political upheaval in Japan. When the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) lost its monopoly on power, which it had held for 38 years, as a result of the House of Representatives election of 1993, Japanese politics entered the coalition era. From 1993 to 1998, the reins of government were held by two types of coalitions: non-LDP coalitions and coalitions that included the LDP and its longtime rival, the Social Democratic Party of Japan (SDP). Although the LDP organized its own government in the early summer of 1998, that year’s House of Councillors election returned Japan to the coalition era. The coalition era in the 1990s was also a period of party reorganization. In the fall of 1998, only two parties remained of the nine that had existed in the summer of 1993. This shuffling of power between the LDP and coalition governments affected the policymaking process in general and certain issues in particular. In this book, six political scientists present in-depth analyses of power shuffles and policymaking in Japan in the 1990s. Specific cases of policymaking discussed include administrative reform of quasi-governmental organizations dealing with public finance and business operations; the review of telecommunications policy undertaken in tandem with the consideration of issues concerning the privatization and deregulation of the telecom giant Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation; and the establishment of long-term care insurance (LTCI) for the elderly. Typical of the style followed in the case study chapters, the discussion of LTCI gives background on the issues concerned, examines the relevant political events at each stage of the policy process–agenda-setting, preparation of a draft bill, compromises made, and final outcome–and analyzes how successful the coalition governments were in changing long-established patterns of policymaking. Other chapters present the backdrop to the political events of the 1990s by examining the impact of voter preference on party realignment and policy conflict from the 1970s to the present, and discuss structural reform by the SDPJ and the changes it made in policy when its chairman was named prime minister in 1994. Also considered is the degree of similarity and difference among the policymaking processes of the LDP and the various coalition governments.

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