Political parties constituting the ‘normal state’ idea group

The LDP has been the dominant political party within the group. In 1955, through a merger of the Liberal Party and the Japan Democratic Party, the LDP was established to counter the growing influence of the Japan Socialist Party (JSP). Since its formation, the party had dominated Japan’s politics, enjoying an almost permanent majority in the Diet. Only in 1993 and 2009 did the party slip out of government at the start of the Morihiro Hosokawa coalition government (which

Key concepts 33 consisted of non-LDP parties such as Shinseito, the Sakigake Party, and the Japan New Party but not the Japanese Communist Party) and the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) government, respectively. During the Cold War, the LDP eschewed all security debates, emphasising instead the country’s impressive economic growth. However, while emphasising economic issues, successive LDP governments firmly maintained the alliance with the US.

Komeito, a long-term coalition partner of the LDP government since 1999, is a political party formed by a religious group (Soka Gakkai) in 1964. In the early Cold War period, the party’s political stance was somewhat hostile towards the SDF and the alliance with the US. However, Komeito altered its attitudes in 1981 by accepting the SDF and the alliance with the US on condition that the SDF’s role would be limited to the defence of Japan’s territory. Since this change of course, Komeito had occupied the middle ground. In 1999, it became a coalition partner of the LDP. However, while in a coalition government, the security policy advocated by Komeito. a self-appointed ‘Peace Party’, is not identical to that of the LDP. As a result, the party sometimes operates as an obstacle to the LDP’s progressive security policy, often urging the LDP to modify this policy (as discussed below).

The Democratic Socialist Party was formed in 1960 by right-wing politicians in the JSP and existed until the end of 1994. In the early period after its formation, the Democratic Socialist Party opposed the alliance with the US, insisting that the alliance should be abolished gradually. However, by 1968, the party changed its attitudes and announced the Five Principles of Self-Defence, which underlined the need not only to defend the country but also to conclude a security treaty with the US without US military bases being based in Japan.12 Although the party was taking a middle ground, it belonged to the ‘normal state' group because it supported the SDF and the alliance with the US.

During the Cold War, the LDP. Komeito, and the Democratic Socialist Party belonged to the ‘normal state’ group. However, in the post-war period, the domestic political situation became fluid, with LDP solidarity waning. In the 1990s, some members began to argue that the LDP must reform itself to eradicate corruption within the party. Disappointed with the LDP’s inability to rectify the problem, these politicians left the party to start new parties. This exodus enabled the opposition parties to form a non-LDP government in which all other parties participated except for the Japanese Communist Party.

The new parties formed by former members of the LDP advocated a similar security policy as the LDP. Therefore, Japan’s ideational balance remained essentially the same. Among the new parties now established, two parties obtained a degree of influence as non-LDP parties in the 1990s. One was the New Frontier Party (Shinshinto: 1994-1997) led by Ichiro Ozawa, who advocated ‘Japan as a normal state’.1' Another was the Democratic Party (1996— 1998) established by Yukio Hatoyama. Kunio Hatoyama, and Naoto Kan. At one point, these parties jointly occupied about 40 per cent of Diet seats. However, due to political differences as well as personal dissent, the New Frontier Party ended up splitting into six small parties in 1997. Ozawa then formed the Liberal Party.

Meanwhile, by embracing former JSP members, the Democratic Party grew' larger. The party's political stance was to support the alliance with the US as well as the SDF. The party was then reorganised in 1998 as a new Democratic Party (hereafter the Democratic Party of Japan: DPJ) by absorbing members of other parties such as the New Frontier Party.

Thus, a substantial number of members of the LDP left the party to start new' political parties in the 1990s. This weakened solidarity within the LDP. However, this fluidity in domestic politics did not result in weakening the influence of the ‘normal state’ group because these new parties supported the SDF and the alliance with the US. The group thus remained intact despite the LDP being in flux for a while. Moreover, many former JSP members joined the newfly created parties in the 1990s. This drastic shift resulted in an increase in membership of the ‘normal state’ group. The results of elections aptly illustrate this growing membership. In the June 2000 elections to the Diet, the LDP gained 233 seats, with the Democratic Party and Konieito obtaining 127 and 31 seats, respectively, out of 480 seats allotted to the Diet. These figures show that the group occupied roughly 81 per cent of all seats in the Diet. Thus, in Japan's domestic politics, a view that supported the alliance, the SDF, and Japan’s more significant security role became dominant (see Figure 2.1).

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Anti-militarist ■ Normal state

Figure 2.1 Election results in the House of Representatives.

Source: Ishikawa, M (2004). Sengo seijishi. Tokyo: Iwanami; NHK (n.d.). Senkyo Web. https://www. nhk.or.jp/senkyo/database/history/ Accessed August 2020. (Compiled by the author). Notes: The Constitutional Party established in 2017 obtained 55 seats in the 2017 election. The party is counted as a normal state group. The Democratic Socialist Party (1960-1994) is counted as belonging to the 'normal state’ idea group. The New Frontier Party, the Party of Hope, and the Japan Innovation party are counted as the ‘normal state’ group. The anti-militarist group includes the JSP and the Japanese Communist Party, in addition to Komeito up to 1980. The increase in anti-militarist group in 1990 was caused by the short-lived ‘Madonna boom’.

In 2003, the DPJ merged with Ozawa’s Liberal Party, thus expanding its presence in national politics. Then in 2009, the DPJ finally achieved a landslide victory over the LDP, forming a government. This was the second time for the LDP to slip from a government position. Not surprisingly, Japan’s security policy remained unchanged. However, the DPJ exposed its inability to handle issues such as the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake, the ensuing nuclear disaster, and the relocation of Futenma US Air Base in Okinawa. Consequently, the DPJ allowed the LDP to return to government in 2013.

This continuously fluid political situation allowed new parties, such as the Japan Innovation Party and the Party of Hope, to emerge. The DPJ merged with the Japan Innovation Party, forming the Democratic Party in 2016. However, this merger did not bring about new dynamics. Due to the lack of momentum, some members of the party left for other parties such as the Party of Hope and the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan,14 while some members of the Democratic Party restarted the Democratic Party of the People. In this way, the DPJ that once formed a government in effect dissolved. However, the dissolution of the DPJ does not indicate that the number of politicians belonging to the group declined. In fact, the group has maintained its influence.

It may be wondered whether the establishment of new political parties in the 1990s implied the emergence of new ideas. However, this was not the case. These newly created parties fundamentally shared a common view of Japan’s security, supporting the alliance with the US and the SDF. In reality, these politicians created new parties to pursue personal agendas. In addition, the introduction of a new subsidy system to political parties in the 1990s somewhat accelerated this political realignment. Before the change of the subsidy system, each political party needed to raise funds by itself. This meant that a politician who wanted to launch a new party first needed to secure funds. However, the introduction of the new subsidy system removed this hurdle by providing funds to any party that met specific criteria. This made it easier for politicians to create new parties.15

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