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Scheiner: Democracy without competition in japan

Disclaimer. Don't rely on these old notes in lieu of reading the literature, but they can jog your memory. As a grad student long ago, my peers and I collaborated to write and exchange summaries of political science research. I posted them to a wiki-style website. "Wikisum" is now dead but archived here. I cannot vouch for these notes' accuracy, nor can I say who wrote them.

Scheiner. 2006. Democracy without competition in japan. Cambridge.


In 1955, two parties merged to form Japan's LDP. Though many Japanese doubted its ability to stay together, it has remained in power ever since (excepting one twelve month period). This is a puzzle for two reasons.(1) Japan is a democracy, and the LDP is regularly contested. (2) The LDP is not popular. How, then, has the LDP remained dominant?


The LDP uses clientelism to remain in government, and this clientelism (X) explains the opposition's failure to recruit good candidates (Y). "I argue that when clientelism (X1) is combined with centralized governmental structure (X2) and institutionalized protection of the beneficiaries of clientelist practices (X3) new and opposition parties have a very low probability of successfully challenging the clientelist regime (Y)."


X1: Clientelism

"Clientelism is the most important factor in my analysis. In contrast to programmatic systems that focus on policy formation, clientelist parties create direct, personal bonds with voters, usually through material (side) payments. ... Clientelist systems' emphasis on administrative infrastructure and bonds created through side payments places a burden on opposition parties, particularly new ones with little access to such benefits."

X2-3: Centralized government and institutionalized protection of the beneficiaries of clientelism

"Clientelism combined with centralized governmental structure and institutionalized protection of the beneficiaries of clientelism creates difficult-to-surmount obstacles for opposition parties. Where this combination exists, opposition parties face great difficulty building local foundations and generating abundant pools of 'quality' or experienced candidates and are limited in the number of geographical areas in which they can realistically compete. Moreover, new parties in such systems run into sizeable obstacles to the development of their own party organizations and policy coherence.

Fit in the Lit


"Many [scholars] point to the conservative, change-resistant culture of the Japanese as a factor maintaining the LDP's hegemony. But, such theories ignore the fact that, in contrast to high support in the past, only about 20 percent of the total electorate (i.e., including non-voters) votes for the LDP."

SNTV rules?

"Other scholars focus on Japan's single non-transferable vote in multi-member district (SNTV/MMD) electoral system, which helped fragment the opposition and led it to divide the vote of its supporters inefficiently. Yet, with the birth of a new electoral system in 1994, these problems are vastly reduced."

Research on similar subjects


Scheiner, Ethan (author)Comparative PoliticsClientelismSingle Party Dominance

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