Ellis Krauss and Robert Pekkanen in front of the National
Diet Building, Tokyo, Japan
The authors prepare for a presentation at Stanford,
Politicians like Hirasawa Katsuei (Tokyo
17th) still earned votes the hard way for September 11,
2005's House of Representatives Election.
Even when it rained.
The "senkyo kaa" remains a well-used
campaign device, even in rural areas. This shot from the
2005 House of Representatives election.
Young supporter at Koizumi
rally, Sept. 10th, 2005
P O L I T I C A L P A R T I E S : J A P A N
been fortunate to have Ellis Krauss of the University of
California San Diego as my partner in a multi-year
investigation of how political parties adapt to changes in
electoral systems. Our research strategies combine
qualitative and quantitative methods.
qualitative side, I have conducted dozens
of interviews with Japanese politicians and party officials,
including more than 50 Diet Members and several former Prime
Ministers, Ministers and top party officials. I also spent
time on the campaign trail myself, shadowing Diet Members
during the campaigns in 2003 (Lower House), 2004 (Upper
House), 2005 (Lower House), and 2009 (Lower House) in Tokyo and in several other locations
on and off Honshu. I gave a few interviews on the 2009
election for the
Christian Science Monitor,
Lifeweek (China), and
China Radio International (PRC state radio).
Ellis and I
have also developed the Japan Legislative Organization (J-LOD)
Database. We painstakingly created a database of
party, Diet, and government posts from 1980 to 2005. Most
posts are shuffled annually, in order to “spread the wealth”
of serving in leadership positions around to as many party
members as possible, necessitating that the dataset cover
not simply the posts assumed after each general election,
but also following subsequent cabinet and leadership
reshuffles. The database includes all LDP and DPJ
politicians. Since the unit of observation is thus the Diet
Member-Year for all Diet Members over an extended period, the
number of observations is in the thousands.
September 10th, 2005: (L-->R)
Jun'ichiro Koizumi, Martha Leche, Ellis Krauss, Robert
P O L I T I C A L P A R T Y
O R G A N I Z A T I O N : J A P A N
Ellis and I
published a book on the LDP's party organization from
Cornell University Press in 2010 entitled, The Rise and Fall of Japan's
LDP: Political Party Organizations as Historical Institutions.
The book examines party organization through institutional
analysis, investigating origin, development and
transformation of institutions over time.
has received praise from a number of quarters.
"This is, in my view, the best book ever written on the
Japan's Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). Ellis S. Krauss and
Robert J. Pekkanen have done incredibly careful and
comprehensive research that they use to develop insightful
and original analysis. The writing style will appeal to both
those with and without technical political science skills.
This book will be of interest to all scholars working on
political parties and institutions. It is a must-read for
anyone with an interest in Japanese politics, and it is a
great text to use in any course taught on Japanese
politics."—Ethan Scheiner, UC Davis
"Ellis S. Krauss and Robert J. Pekkanen have written a
timely and important book. As the Liberal Democratic Party
searches for its own identity in the early twenty-first
Rise and Fall of Japan's LDPgives us a fine historical
sketch of how it managed to stay in office so long and what
made it so powerful. In its sophisticated application of
Historical Institutionalism, this book offers important
insights into both what has made Japanese politics unique
change is so difficult to achieve. Krauss and Pekkanen
have thus written a book that should be of intense
interest to both political scientists and political
leaders curious about Japan’s past and future."—Sven
Steinmo, European University Institute
"This book is likely to become the reference on the LDP and
electoral politics in Japan. The
Rise and Fall of Japan's LDP is
built around terrific insights, which, I am convinced, are
correct. Ellis S. Krauss and Robert J. Pekkanen turn much of
the literature on Japan on its head through an extremely
meticulous and unprecedented empirical analysis of all key
institutions of the LDP. They also back that up with a
systematic and coherent theoretical framework rooted in
historical institutionalism. The book is superb, very
coherent, and probably correct in all its findings. It will
shake and change the field of Japanese politics and become a
core classic."—Yves Tiberghien, University of British
"This book will, I think, become a classic in the study of
Japanese politics. It will be widely read and cited for a
long time. I heartily applaud the application of historical
institutionalism. The static mechanical theories, the strong
deductive models that the authors refer to and are currently
in vogue simply do not work. Political science will only
become scientific if we take time seriously."—Steven R.
Reed, Chuo University
"Why did the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) suddenly lose
its semipermanent stranglehold as Japan's dominant party?
And yet, why do factions, koenkai, and the PARC of the LDP
still persist even to this day as those party institutions
were supposed to vanish after Japan’s fundamental electoral
reform of 1994? Ellis S. Krauss and Robert J. Pekkanen
elegantly solve these puzzles in the most comprehensive and
systematic study of the LDP ever. The authors open the
theoretical toolbox of historical
institutionalism and skillfully utilize concepts such as
complementary institutions, sequencing, and negative
externalities; employ multiple methodologies; and
uncover powerful empirical evidence. The appealing
result is an overwhelmingly compelling and insightful
analysis of Japanese politics. This magnificent work is
more than a must-read for anyone interested in the LDP
and Japan. It will certainly become a classic."—Yutaka
Tsujinaka, University of Tsukuba
review in the Japan Times (3/6/2011):
LDP: fall of Japan's political machine
By JEFF KINGSTON
THE RISE AND FALL OF JAPAN'S LDP: Political Party
Organizations as Historical Institutions, by Ellis
S. Krauss and Robert J. Pekkanen. Cornell University
Press, 2011, 318 pp., $26.95 (paper)
Japanese politics is in a sad state these days with the
media likening Diet debate to flatulence. Voters'
expectations soared when the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ)
won a landslide victory over the Liberal Democratic
Party (LDP) in August 2009, taking control over both
houses of the Diet.
The DPJ, however, has disappointed ever since with
fumbling leadership and lost control of the Upper House
in July 2010.
Deadlock in the Diet courtesy of the LDP has
disillusioned voters and means that Japan's huge
In this excellent book the authors examine the inner
workings of the LDP since it was established in 1955, a
critically important topic given its dominant role in
Japanese politics until 2009. It is a fascinating
analysis of the institutions within the LDP and how they
evolved over time.
The key distinguishing institutions of the LDP have been
the koenkai (support
organizations), factions, the Policy Affairs Research
Council (PARC) and party leadership. By examining each
in historical context, Krauss and Pekkanen help explain
why the LDP remained dominant for so long and why
institutional change remains elusive. In doing so they
have written the go to book on understanding what makes
Japanese politics tick and how its election system
The authors analyze the electoral reform implemented in
1994 and the limited consequences for the LDP. Pundits
predicted that these institutions would vanish because
of the electoral reforms, but understanding why they did
not wither away is illuminating. The authors take a
"historical institutionalist" approach to look at the
origins of party institutions, the
incentives/disincentives that shape them and how they
interact and reinforce each other. They make a
convincing and interesting argument about how party
institutions played a significant role in limiting the
impact of the reform.
The institutional adjustments varied, but electoral
reform has had a limited impact because politicians and
parties respond to a range of other interrelated
incentives and needs. They argue that "Electoral systems
provide the rules under which political actors play the
game of politics, but they do not alone or invariably
determine the specific outcomes of the game, why and how
the actors play that game, or how well they play it."
Moreover, the key role of institutional
complementarities within the LDP explains much of the
Koenkai served as personal political machines and "were
the main grassroots vote-mobilizing organization."
Factions were groups within the party based on
reciprocal exchanges between party elders and other
party members, including doling out important posts in
the party and government. PARC was the main policymaking
body within the party and thus the government. These
three institutions were mutually reinforcing and
"essentially undermined the ability of the party
president and prime minister to lead effectively."
Crucially, "the prime minister had a minimal role in
party vote-seeking, office-seeking, and policy-seeking
functions." Becoming prime minister depended mostly on
"the talents to make back-room bargains, raise money,
Electoral reform in 1994, explained in detail here,
responded to popular dissatisfaction with politics and
voting disparities that enabled the LDP to remain in
power "even though it had not obtained a majority of the
popular vote since 1967."
By detailing how these institutions arose and evolved
over time, the authors explain the historical dynamics,
negative externalities and complementary institutions
that mediated and shaped the reform process.
For example, the persistence of strict limits on
campaigning after the 1994 electoral reform ensured
politicians continued to rely on koenkai to mobilize the
vote, explaining "why they were not whisked into the
dustbin of history."
Factions remained robust because they continued to
control the distribution of posts in PARC and the party,
offering significant incentives to join while PARC
remained pivotal in policymaking.
The changes affecting LDP institutions over the past
decade owe little to the 1994 reform. The authors find
that the main complementary institution for factions was
determining party leadership, but Prime Minister
Junichiro Koizumi cut that Gordian knot in 2001 when he
defied the factions and won the party presidency. And
now that the LDP has been ousted from power, factions no
longer can dangle the inducements of plum posts and
influence and PARC no longer makes government policy.
The authors attribute the LDP's downfall to "the very
institutions that drove the LDP electoral success."
Institutional inertia and limited adaptation meant the
LDP did not respond effectively to "a more competitive
party system, a changed role for the media, and
transformed voter appetites."
They predict that because "the LDP has tasted defeat, we
expect the party to find a new appetite for
One can only hope that the LDP also discovers an
appetite for substantive discussion on what policies
would best serve the national interest.
Jeff Kingston is director of Asian Studies at Temple
publication from this project looks at changes in the
Liberal Democratic Party of Japan. The APSR
publication below focuses on issues of legislative organization,
but this Journal of Japanese Studies article examines party organization.
2004. “Explaining Party
Adaptation to Electoral Reform: The Discreet Charm of the
LDP?” Ellis Krauss and Robert Pekkanen.
Journal of Japanese Studies
Vol. 30, No. 1 (Winter 2004)
2010. "The Rise
and Fall of Japan's Liberal Democratic Party." Ellis S.
Krauss and Robert J. Pekkanen. The Journal of Asian
Studies. Volume 69, Issue 01: 5-15.
This article traces the effects of Japan's 1994 electoral
reform on Japan's governing party, the LDP. Factions have
lost their central role in nominating candidates and
deciding the party presidency but remain important in
allocating party and Diet posts. Unexpectedly, koenkai
have grown stronger because they perform new functions. PARC
remains important but diminished by the enhanced
policymaking role of party leaders in the coalition
government. A central theme is unpredicted organizational
adaptation—"embedded choice"—since 1994. We speculate on how
this flexibility of the LDP, adapting old organizational
forms to new incentives, its "discreet charm," may affect
Japanese politics and the LDP's potential longevity in
Ellis and I
also wrote another piece on the LDP.
2008. Ellis Krauss and Robert Pekkanen. "Reforming the
Liberal Democratic Party." In Sherry L. Martin and Gill
Steel, eds, Democratic Reform in Japan: Assessing the
Impact. Boulder: Lynne Rienner, 2008, pp. 11-39.
Ellis and I
are also co-authors on an article in British
Journal of Political Science with a Ph.D. student
at UCSD, Kuniaki Nemoto. The article
is entitled "Policy Dissension and Party Discipline: The
July 2005 Vote on Postal Privatization in Japan." As the
title implies, it is a study of party discipline. This
article also uses the Japanese Legislative Organization
"Policy Dissension and Party Discipline: The July 2005 Vote
on Postal Privatization in Japan." Kuniaki Nemoto, Ellis
Krauss and Robert Pekkanen. British Journal of Political
Science 38 (3) July: 499-525.
discipline and party cohesion or defection,
as an illustration the rebellion over postal
privatization in 2005 by members of Japan’s Liberal
Democratic Party (LDP). We explore the importance of party
rules – especially the seniority rule and policy
specialization for district rewards – as intervening
variables between election rules and party defection in a
decentralized and diverse party. We argue that in such
cases, party rules like seniority can help prevent
defection. When these rules are changed, as in the postal
case of 2005, defection is more probable, but we find that
the relationship between defection and seniority is likely
to be curvilinear. We also find that the curvilinearity is
conditional upon each legislator's
having different incentives for vote, policy
O L I T I C A L P A R T I E S : J A P A N
L E G I S L A T I V E O R G A N I
Z A T I O N
: J A P A N
planned a series of articles utilizing this database to
investigate and illuminate issues in party politics. And, we
have already published the first paper to make use of this
database (co-authored with our colleague Ben Nyblade of University of
British Columbia). This paper appeared in the
American Political Science Review (APSR) in May 2006.
2006. Pekkanen, Robert,
Benjamin Nyblade and Ellis S. Krauss.
"Electoral Incentives in Mixed Member Systems: Party, Posts,
and Zombie Politicians in Japan." American Political
Science Review. 100 (2) May, 183-193.
Here’s the abstract.
electoral incentives affect legislative organization?
Through an analysis of Japan's mixed-member electoral
system, we demonstrate that legislative organization is
strongly influenced not just by the individual
legislator's reelection incentives, but also by their
interest in their party gaining power and maintaining a
strong party label. Electorally vulnerable legislators
are given choice legislative positions to enhance their
prospects at the polls, while (potential) party leaders
disproportionately receive posts with greater influence
on the party's overall reputation. MPs elected from PR
lists and in single member districts also receive
different types of posts, reflecting their distinct
electoral incentives. Even small variations in
electoral rules can have important consequences for
legislative organization. In contrast to Germany’s
compensatory mixed member system, Japan’s parallel
system (combined with a “best loser” or “zombie”
provision) generates incentives for the party to
allocate posts relating to the distribution of
particularistic goods to those elected in PR.
Abstract in Japanese:
Ben, Ellis, and I are
collaborating on several of papers investigating
legislative organization and party organization in Japan.
Ben's website is linked
For a link
to Ellis Krauss’s home page, click
A Japanese version of this
article appears as
2008. "小選挙区比例代表並立制と役職配分” in日本の民主主義
edited by Sone Yasunori and Oyama
Kosuke. Tokyo: Keio University Press, 2008.
O T H E R
P O L I T I C A L P A R T I E S : J A P A N
Ellis and I also
wrote a paper on the influence of party politics in
determining Japan's security policies. The paper is entitled
"Japan's 'Coalition of the Willing' on Security Policies."
The paper appears in the journal Orbis in Summer
2005 (Volume 49, Number 3).
Click here for the Orbis website homepage.
'Coalition of the Willing' on Security Policies." Robert
Pekkanen and Ellis Krauss. Orbis. Summer, 49:3.
abstract is here:
Japan’s security policy has
changed dramatically. Japan’s contribution to the US-led
Gulf War in 1991 was widely deemed inadequate because it was
“merely” money ($13 billion), yet, even with tenuous UN
authorization, there are 1,000 pairs of Japanese
Self-Defense Force (SDF) “boots on the ground” in Iraq
today. Structural variables such as the end of the
Cold War and institutional variables such as the increase in
the policy-making power of the Prime Minister tell only part
of the story. An examination of several recent cases of
change in Japanese security policy demonstrates that party
politics also matters. We investigate the cases of
Anti-Terror Legislation of 2002, the Emergency Measure Laws
of 2003, the dispatch of SDF troops to Iraq in 2004, and
possible Constitutional Revision in 2005. Unlike the old
“’55 system,” Japanese party politics today is characterized
not by ideological polarization and one party dominance, but
by ideological dispersion and coalition governments.
Shifting alliances within and among parties determine how
Pekkanen on "The NewsHour with
Related to security policy, I
also appeared to discuss Japan-China relations on April 22,
2005 on the "The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer" program on PBS
television. The title of the segment is "Japan-China
Tensions" and the video can be viewed on the PBS website.
The NewsHour website has a "Search for NewsHour Video" page,
and entering the Keyword "Pekkanen" will find the video
immediately. Entering the Keyword "Japan" only brings up
about a dozen videos. The link is here:
I appeared on the local NPR station
KUOW program "Weekday" on May 25th, 2005 9-10 AM to discuss
US-China-Japan relations with the host and
Professor David Bachman of the University of Washington.
The link to the program is
See also a
July 28th, 2005 article in The Washington Times
though it is only tangentially related to security, a
fascinating Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force TV
recruiting ad is linked
For a link
to Ellis Krauss’s home page, click
There's also a very good interview with Ellis by Robert
Angel of the University of South Carolina on Professor
Angel's website. The direct link to the interview is
Ellis Krauss and friend. Photo
by Robert Pekkanen.
you are interested, see also my research on political
parties and legislative organization outside of Japan.
O L I T I S-->
Comparative Political Parties and Legislative
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P O L I T I C A L P A R T I E S