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--> Civil Society <--
My 2006 book from Stanford University Press, Japan's Dual Civil Society: Members without Advocates, addresses civil society and this is one of the areas of my greatest research interest.

cover for Japan’s Dual Civil Society

-->  Political Parties and Legislative Organization in Japan <--
Another major research area for me is the organization of political parties and legislative organization in Japan, especially the Liberal Democratic Party.

--> Comparative Political Parties and Legislative Organization <--
I am also interested in comparative analysis of legislative organization and political parties.

--> Comparative Civil Society Research <--
This includes the JIGS 2 comparative research project.

--> Neighborhood Associations <--
I am currently working on a book with Yutaka Tsujinaka and Hidehiro Yamamoto that utilizes data from the first ever nationwide survey of NHAs in Japan





Ellis Krauss and Robert Pekkanen in front of the National Diet Building, Tokyo, Japan

The authors prepare for a presentation at Stanford,          August 2005.

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




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I’ve also 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.

On the 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 Pekkanen



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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.


The book 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 century, The 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 and why
 institutional 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 Columbia

"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

Here's a review in the Japan Times (3/6/2011):

LDP: fall of Japan's political machine

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 problems fester.

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 works.

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 persistence.

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, and longevity."

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 organizational change."

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 University Japan.
The Japan Times: Sunday, March 6, 2011



Another 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 power.

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 Database.

  2008. "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.


This article examines party discipline and party cohesion or defection, offering 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 and office.

Abstract in Japanese: 論文要旨





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We have 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.


How do 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: 論文要旨


Ben, Ellis, and I are collaborating on several of papers investigating legislative organization and party organization in Japan. Ben's website is linked here. For a link to Ellis Krauss’s home page, click here.

 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 変わる政治、変わる政治学  edited by Sone Yasunori and Oyama Kosuke. Tokyo: Keio University Press, 2008. (in Japanese)


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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.

  2005. "Japan's 'Coalition of the Willing' on Security Policies." Robert Pekkanen and Ellis Krauss. Orbis. Summer, 49:3.

The paper 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 policy changes.

Pekkanen on "The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer"

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 here.

See also a July 28th, 2005 article in The Washington Times linked here.

And, even though it is only tangentially related to security, a fascinating Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force TV recruiting ad is linked here.



For a link to Ellis Krauss’s home page, click here. 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 here.


Ellis Krauss and friend. Photo by Robert Pekkanen.


 If 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 Organization <--

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