Democratic Party of Japan

For the successor party, see Democratic Party (Japan).
Democratic Party of Japan
President Katsuya Okada
Secretary-General Yukio Edano
Councilors leader Akira Gunji
Representatives leader Katsuya Okada
Founded 27 April 1998 (1998-04-27)
Dissolved 27 March 2016 (2016-03-27)
Merger of Democratic (1996-98)
Good Governance
New Fraternity
Democratic Reform
Merged into Democratic Party
Headquarters 1-11-1 Nagata-cho, Chiyoda, Tokyo 100-0014, Japan
Membership  (2012) 326,974
Ideology Centrism
Social liberalism
Political position Centre to Centre-left[1][2]
International affiliation Alliance of Democrats (2005–12)
Colors           Red and black (informally)

The Democratic Party of Japan (民主党 Minshutō) was a centrist[3] political party in Japan from 1998 to 2016.

The party's origins lie in the previous Democratic Party of Japan, which was founded in September 1996 by politicians of the centre-right and centre-left with roots in the Liberal Democratic Party and Japan Socialist Party.[4] In April 1998 the previous DPJ merged with splinters of the New Frontier Party to create a new party which retained the DPJ name.[5] In 2003 the party was joined by the Liberal Party of Ichirō Ozawa.[2]

Following the 2009 election, the DPJ became the ruling party in the House of Representatives, defeating the long-dominant Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and gaining the largest number of seats in both the House of Representatives and the House of Councillors. The DPJ was ousted from government by the LDP in the 2012 general election. It retained 57 seats in the lower house, and still had 88 seats in the upper house. During its time in office, the DPJ was beset by internal conflicts and struggled to implement many of its proposed policies, an outcome described by political scientists Phillip Lipscy and Ethan Scheiner as the "paradox of political change without policy change".[6] Legislative productivity under the DPJ was particularly low, falling to levels unprecedented in recent Japanese history according to some measures.[7] However, the DPJ implemented a number of progressive measures during its time in office such as the provision of free public schooling through high school, increases in child-rearing subsidies,[8] expanded unemployment insurance coverage,[9] extended duration of a housing allowance,[10] and stricter regulations safeguarding part-time and temporary workers.[11]

On 27 March 2016 the DPJ merged with the Japan Innovation Party and Vision of Reform to form the Democratic Party (Minshintō).[12]

It is not to be confused with the now-defunct Japan Democratic Party that merged with the Liberal Party in 1955 to form the Liberal Democratic Party. It is also different from another Democratic Party, which was established in 1947 and dissolved in 1950.



Headquarters of the Democratic Party of Japan

The Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) was formed on 27 April 1998.[13] It was a merger of four previously independent parties that were opposed to the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) — the previous Democratic Party of Japan, the Good Governance Party (民政党, Minseitō), the New Fraternity Party (新党友愛, Shintō-Yūai), and the Democratic Reform Party (民主改革連合, Minshu-Kaikaku-Rengō). The previous parties ranged in ideology from conservative to social-democratic.[4] The new party began with ninety-three members of the House of Representatives and thirty-eight members of the House of Councilors. Moreover, the party officials were elected as well at the party convention for the first time; Naoto Kan, former Health and Welfare Minister was appointed as the president of the party and Tsutomu Hata, former Prime Minister as Secretary-General.

On 24 September 2003 the party formally merged with the small, centre-right Liberal Party led by Ichirō Ozawa[14] in a move largely considered in preparation for the 2003 general election held on 9 November 2003. This move immediately gave the DPJ eight more seats in the House of Councilors.

In the 2003 general election the DPJ gained a total of 178 seats. This was short of their objectives, but nevertheless a significant demonstration of the new group's strength. Following a pension scandal, Naoto Kan resigned and was replaced with moderate liberal Katsuya Okada.

In the 2004 House of Councilors elections, the DPJ won a seat more than the ruling Liberal Democrats, but the LDP still maintained its firm majority in total votes. This was the first time since its inception that the LDP had garnered fewer votes than another party.

The 2005 snap parliamentary elections called by Junichiro Koizumi in response to the rejection of his Postal privatization bills saw a major setback to the DPJ's plans of obtaining a majority in the Diet. The DPJ leadership, particularly Okada, had staked their reputation on winning the election and driving the LDP from power. When the final results were in, the DPJ had lost 62 seats, mostly to its rival the LDP. Okada resigned the party leadership, fulfilling his campaign promise to do so if the DPJ did not obtain a majority in the Diet. He was replaced by Seiji Maehara in September 2005.

However, Maehara's term as party leader lasted barely half a year. Although he initially led the party's criticism of the Koizumi administration, particularly in regards to connections between LDP lawmakers and scandal-ridden Livedoor, the revelation that a fake email was used to try and establish this link greatly damaged his credibility. The scandal led to the resignation of Representative Hisayasu Nagata and of Maehara as party leader on 31 March.[15] New elections for party leader were held on 7 April, in which Ichirō Ozawa was elected President.[16] In Upper House election 2007, the DPJ won 60 out of 121 contested seats, with 49 seats not up for re-election.

2009–2012 government

DPJ winning the 2009 general election

Ozawa resigned as party leader in May 2009 after a fundraising scandal and Yukio Hatoyama succeeded Ozawa before the August 2009 general election,[13] at which the party swept the LDP from power in a massive landslide, winning 308 seats (out of a total of 480 seats), reducing the LDP from 300 to 119 seats[17][18] - the worst defeat for a sitting government in modern Japanese history. This was in marked contrast to the closely contested 1993 general election, the only other time the LDP has lost an election. The DPJ's strong majority in the House of Representatives assured that Hatoyama would be the next prime minister. Hatoyama was nominated on September 16 and formally appointed later that day by Emperor Akihito.

However, the DPJ did not have a majority in the House of Councillors, which was not contested at the election, and fell just short of the 320 seats (a two-thirds majority) needed to override the upper chamber's veto power. Hatoyama was thus forced to form a coalition government with the Social Democratic Party and the People's New Party to ensure their support in the House of Councillors.[19]

On 2 June 2010, Hatoyama announced his resignation before a party meeting and officially resigned two days later. He cited breaking a campaign promise to close an American military base on the island of Okinawa as the main reason for the move. On 28 May 2010, soon after and because of increased tensions after the possible sinking of a Korean ship by North Korea,[20] Hatoyama had made a deal with U.S. President Barack Obama[21][22][23][24][25] to retain the base for security reasons, but the deal was unpopular in Japan. He also mentioned money scandals involving a top party leader, Ozawa, who resigned as well, in his decision to step down.[21] Hatoyama had been pressured to leave by members of his party after doing poorly in polls in anticipation of the July upper house election.[26] Naoto Kan succeeded Hatoyama as the next President of DPJ and Prime Minister of Japan.[27]

At the July 2010 House of Councillors election, the DPJ lost ten seats and their coalition majority. Prior to the election Kan raised the issue of an increase to Japan's 5 per cent consumption tax in order to address the country's rising debt. This proposal, together with Ozawa and Hatoyama's scandals, was viewed as one of the causes for the party's poor performance in the election. The divided house meant the government required the cooperation of smaller parties including Your Party and the Communist Party to ensure the passage of legislation through the upper house.[28]

Ozawa challenged Kan's leadership of the DPJ in September 2010. Although Ozawa initially had a slight edge among DPJ members of parliament, local rank-and-file party members and activists overwhelmingly supported Kan, and according to opinion polls the wider Japanese public preferred Kan to Ozawa by as much as a 4–1 ratio.[29] In the final vote by DPJ lawmakers Kan won with 206 votes to Ozawa's 200.[30]

After the leadership challenge, Kan reshuffled his cabinet and removed many prominent members of the pro-Ozawa faction from important posts in the new cabinet.[31] The cabinet reshuffle also resulted in the promotion of long-time Kan ally Yoshito Sengoku to Chief Cabinet Secretary, who the LDP labeled as the "second" Prime Minister of the Kan cabinet.[32]

In September 2010 the government intervened to weaken the surging yen by buying U.S. dollars, a move which temporarily relieved Japan's exporters.[33] The move proved popular with stock brokers, Japanese exporters, and the Japanese public.[33] It was the first such move by a Japanese government since 2004.[33] Later, in October, after the yen had offset the intervention and had reached a 15-year high, the Kan cabinet approved a stimulus package worth about 5.1 trillion yen ($62 billion) in order to weaken the yen and fight deflation.[34]

2012-2016 return to opposition and dissolution

On 24 February 2016, the DPJ announced and agreement to merge with the smaller Japan Innovation Party (JIP) and Vision of Reform ahead of the Upper House elections in the summer,[35][36] with a merger at a special convention agreed for 27 March.[37] On 4 March 2016, the DPJ and JIP asked supporters for suggestions for a name for the new party.[38] On 14 March 2016 the name of the new party was announced as Minshintō, having been the most popular choice of possible names polled among voters.[39][40] With the addition of Representatives form Vision of Reform, the DPJ and JIP merged to form the Democratic Party on 27 March 2016.[41][42]


The Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) called their philosophy Democratic Centrism (ja:民主中道 minshu-chūdō), which was determined in the first party convention on 27 April 1998.[43]

The DPJ aimed to create a platform broad enough to encompass the views of politicians who had roots in either the Liberal Democratic Party or Japan Socialist Party.[5] Party leader Naoto Kan compared the DPJ to the Olive Tree alliance of former Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi, and described his view that it needed to be "the party of Thatcher and Blair".[5]

View of the status quo

The DPJ claimed themselves to be revolutionary in that they are against the status quo and the current governing establishment. The DPJ argued that the bureaucracy and the size of the Japanese government is too large, inefficient, and saturated with cronies and that the Japanese state is too conservative and inflexible. The DPJ wanted to "overthrow the ancient régime locked in old thinking and vested interests, solve the problems at hand, and create a new, flexible, affluent society which values people's individuality and vitality."[44]

Political standpoint

We stand for those who have been excluded by the structure of vested interests, those who work hard and pay taxes, and for people who strive for independence despite difficult circumstances. In other words, we represent citizens, taxpayers, and consumers. We do not seek a panacea either in the free market or in the welfare state. Rather, we shall build a new road of the democratic center toward a society in which self-reliant individuals can mutually coexist and the government's role is limited to building the necessary systems.[44]


Democratic Centrism pursued the following five goals.[44]

The Democratic Party sought to build a society governed with rules which are transparent, just and fair.
While the party argued that the free market system should "permeate" economic life, they also aim for an inclusive society which guarantees security, safety, and fair and equal opportunity for each individual.
The party intended to devolve the centralized government powers to citizens, markets, and local governments so that people of all backgrounds can participate in decision-making.
The Democratic Party proclaimed to hold the values in the meaning of the constitution to "embody the fundamental principles of the Constitution": popular sovereignty, respect for fundamental human rights, and pacifism.[44]
As a member of the global community, the party sought to establish Japan's international relations in the fraternal spirit of self-reliance and mutual coexistence to restore the world's trust in the country.[44]

Policy platforms

The DPJ's policy platforms included the restructuring of civil service, monthly allowance to a family with children (¥26,000 per child), cut in gas tax, income support for farmers, free tuition for public high schools, banning of temporary work in manufacturing,[45] raising the minimum-wage to ¥1,000 and halting of increase in sales tax for the next four years.[46][47]



The DPJ had some political factions or groups, although they werre not as factionalized as the LDP, which has traditionally placed high priority on intra-party factional alignment. The groups were, the most influential to the least influential:

The Independent’s Club was a minor political party which formed a political entity with the DPJ in both chambers of the house.

Presidents of the Democratic Party of Japan

The Presidents of Democratic Party of Japan (ja:民主党代表 Minshutō Daihyō), the formal name is 民主党常任幹事会代表 (Minshutō Jyōnin-Kanji-Kai Daihyō).

No. Name Term of office Image Election results
Took office Left office
1 Naoto Kan
菅 直人
Kan Naoto
27 April 1998 18 January 1999 unchallenged
18 January 1999 25 September 1999 Naoto Kan - 180
Shigefumi Matsuzawa - 51
Abstention - 8
2 Yukio Hatoyama
鳩山 由紀夫
Hatoyama Yukio
25 September 1999 9 September 2000 Yukio Hatoyama - 182
Naoto Kan - 130
9 September 2000 23 September 2002 walkover
23 September 2002 10 December 2002 Yukio Hatoyama - 254
Naoto Kan - 242
3 Naoto Kan
菅 直人
Kan Naoto
10 December 2002 18 May 2004 Naoto Kan - 104
Katsuya Okada - 79
4 Katsuya Okada
岡田 克也
Okada Katsuya
18 May 2004 13 September 2004 unchallenged
13 September 2004 17 September 2005 walkover
5 Seiji Maehara
前原 誠司
Maehara Seiji
17 September 2005 7 April 2006 Seiji Maehara - 96
Naoto Kan - 94
Abstention - 3
6 Ichirō Ozawa
小沢 一郎
Ozawa Ichirō
7 April 2006 12 September 2006 Ichirō Ozawa - 119
Naoto Kan - 73
12 September 2006 21 September 2008 walkover
21 September 2008 16 May 2009 walkover
7 Yukio Hatoyama
鳩山 由紀夫
Hatoyama Yukio
16 May 2009 4 June 2010 see 2009 election
Yukio Hatoyama - 124
Katsuya Okada - 95
8 Naoto Kan
菅 直人
Kan Naoto
4 June 2010 14 September 2010 see Jun 2010 election
Naoto Kan - 291
Shinji Tarutoko - 129
14 September 2010 29 August 2011 see Sep 2010 election
Naoto Kan - 721
Ichirō Ozawa - 491
9 Yoshihiko Noda
野田 佳彦
Noda Yoshihiko
29 August 2011 21 September 2012 see 2011 election
Yoshihiko Noda - 215
Banri Kaieda - 177
21 September 2012 25 December 2012 Yoshihiko Noda - 818
Hirotaka Akamatsu - 154
Kazuhiro Haraguchi - 123
Michihiko Kano - 113
10 Banri Kaieda
海江田 万里
Kaieda Banri
25 December 2012 14 December 2014 Banri Kaieda - 90
Sumio Mabuchi - 54
11 Katsuya Okada
岡田 克也
Okada Katsuya
14 December 2014 18 January 2015 acting
18 January 2015 27 March 2016 see 2015 election

Election results

All-time highest values are bolded

General election results

Election Leader # of candidates # of seats won # of Constituency votes % of Constituency vote # of PR Block votes % of PR Block vote
2000 Yukio Hatoyama 262
127 / 480
16,811,732 27.61% 15,067,990 25.18%
2003 Naoto Kan 277
177 / 480
21,814,154 36.66% 22,095,636 37.39%
2005 Katsuya Okada 299
113 / 480
24,804,786 36.44% 21,036,425 31.02%
2009 Yukio Hatoyama 330
308 / 480
33,475,334 47.43% 29,844,799 42.41%
2012 Yoshihiko Noda 267
57 / 480
13,598,773 22.81% 9,268,653 15.49%
2014 Banri Kaieda 198
73 / 475
11,916,838 22.50% 9,775,991 18.33%

Councillors election results

Election Leader # of seats total # of seats won # of National votes % of National vote # of Prefectural votes % of Prefectural vote
1998 Naoto Kan
47 / 252
27 / 126
12,209,685 21.75% 9,063,939 16.20%
2001 Yukio Hatoyama
59 / 247
26 / 121
8,990,524 16.42% 10,066,552 18.53%
2004 Katsuya Okada
82 / 242
50 / 121
21,137,457 37.79% 21,931,984 39.09%
2007 Ichirō Ozawa
109 / 242
60 / 121
23,256,247 39.48% 24,006,817 40.45%
2010 Naoto Kan
106 / 242
44 / 121
18,450,139 31.56% 22,756,000 38.97%
2013 Banri Kaieda
59 / 242
17 / 121
7,268,653 13.4% 8,646,371 16.3%

See also


  1. Takashi Inoguchi (2012). "1945: Post-Second World War Japan". In Benjamin Isakhan; Stephen Stockwell. The Edinburgh Companion to the History of Democracy. Edinburgh University Press. p. 308. ISBN 978-0-7486-4075-1. The Democratic Party of Japan is a centre-left party, but it contains a sizeable union-based left wing and some members close to the extreme right.
  2. 1 2 Miranda Schreurs (2014). "Japan". In Jeffrey Kopstein; Mark Lichbach; Stephen E. Hanson. Comparative Politics: Interests, Identities, and Institutions in a Changing Global Order. Cambridge University Press. p. 192. ISBN 978-1-139-99138-4.
  3. The Democratic Party of Japan was widely described as centrist:
  4. 1 2 Yu Uchiyama (2010). "Leadership Strategies: Redrawing boundaries among and within parties in Japan". In Glenn D. Hook. Decoding Boundaries in Contemporary Japan: The Koizumi Administration and Beyond. Routledge. p. 125. ISBN 978-1-136-84099-9.
  5. 1 2 3 Gerald L. Curtis (1999). The Logic of Japanese Politics: Leaders, Institutions, and the Limits of Change. Columbia University Press. pp. 193–194. ISBN 978-0-231-50254-2.
  6. Phillip Y. Lipscy and Ethan Scheiner. 2012. "Japan under the DPJ: The Paradox of Political Change without Policy Change". Journal of East Asian Studies 12(3): 311–322.
  7. Kenji E. Kushida and Phillip Y. Lipscy. 2013. "The Rise and Fall of the Democratic Party of Japan". in Kenji E. Kushida and Phillip Y. Lipscy eds. Japan Under the DPJ: The Politics of Transition and Governance. Stanford: Brookings/Walter H. Shorenstein Asia Pacific Research Center.
  8. Japan in Transformation, 1945–2010 (2nd edition) by Jeff Kingston
  9. Izuhara, M. (2013). Handbook on East Asian Social Policy. Edward Elgar Publishing, Incorporated. p. 446. ISBN 9780857930293. Retrieved 12 December 2014.
  10. Miura, M. (2012). Welfare through Work: Conservative Ideas, Partisan Dynamics, and Social Protection in Japan. Cornell University Press. p. 153. ISBN 9780801465482. Retrieved 12 December 2014.
  11. Béland, D.; Peterson, K. (2014). Analysing Social Policy Concepts and Language: Comparative and Transnational Perspectives. Policy Press. p. 207. ISBN 9781447306443. Retrieved 12 December 2014.
  13. 1 2 FACTBOX: Key facts about parties competing in Japan election, Reuters, 20 August 2009
  14. "The Democratic Party of Japan". Democratic Party of Japan. 2006. Retrieved 2008-09-06.
  15. Japan opposition leader resigns, BBC NEWS, 31 March 2006
  16. Japanese opposition picks leader, BBC NEWS, 7 April 2006
  17. "'Major win' for Japan opposition". BBC News. 2009-08-30. Retrieved 2009-08-31.
  18. "衆院党派別得票数・率(比例代表)". (in Japanese) Jiji. 2009-08-31.
  19. "Hatoyama says DPJ will form coalition even if party performs well in election". Mainichi. 2009-08-22.
  20. Associated, The (2010-05-23). "Japan's Leader Concedes To U.S. On Okinawa Base". NPR. Archived from the original on 2010-05-25. Retrieved 2010-06-02.
  21. 1 2 Hayashi, Yuka (2 June 2010). "Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama Resigns; Search for New Leader Begins -". Retrieved 2010-06-02.
  22. "MCAS Futenma to remain on Okinawa". Marine Corps Times.
  23. "Hatoyama, Obama to talk on Futenma Air Base: report". Reuters. 25 May 2010. Retrieved 2010-06-02.
  24. The Yomiuri Shimbun. "'Obama nod' prompted Fukushima dismissal : National : DAILY YOMIURI ONLINE (The Daily Yomiuri)". Retrieved 2010-06-02.
  25. "Obama, Hatoyama Satisfied With US Airbase Relocation - White House -". 2010-05-27. Archived from the original on June 1, 2010. Retrieved 2010-06-02.
  26. Linda Sieg and Yoko Nishikawa (2 June 2010). "Japan PM quits before election, yen sinks". Reuters. Retrieved 2010-06-02.
  27. reuters Japan Democrats pick heavyweight Kan as next PM
  28. Sakamaki, Sachiko; Hirokawa, Takashi (12 July 2010). "Kan Election Loss May Impede Effort to Cut Japan Debt". Bloomberg. Retrieved 7 June 2016.
  29. "Japan public backs PM Kan vs Ozawa by wide margin – poll". Reuters. 6 September 2010. Retrieved 7 June 2016.
  30. "Kan cruises to victory in DPJ election". The Japan Times. 15 September 2010. Retrieved 7 June 2016.
  31. "Prime minister makes bold move in shutting out Ozawa's influence". The Japan Times. 17 September 2010. Retrieved 7 June 2016.
  32. "Sengoku's growing influence causes a stir". The Japan Times. 23 October 2010. Retrieved 7 June 2016.
  33. 1 2 3 "Naoto Kan government intervenes in currency market to weaken yen". The Christian Science Monitor. 15 September 2010. Retrieved 7 June 2016.
  34. Fujioka, Toru (25 October 2010). "Cabinet Approves $63 Billion Stimulus Plan to Fight Deflation, Rising Yen". Bloomberg. Retrieved 7 June 2016.
  39. NHK World News. (March 14, 2016). DPJ, JIP decide on new party name: Minshinto.
  43. Out Basic Philosophy - Building a free and secure society on The Democratic Party of Japan's website accessed on May 12, 2010. (Japanese)
  44. 1 2 3 4 5 Out Basic Philosophy - Building a free and secure society on The Democratic Party of Japan's website accessed on 17 May 2008.
  45. Ryall, Julian (2009-08-27). "Japan election: unemployed turn on the government". London: The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 1 May 2010.
  46. Hiroko Tabuchi (2009-08-03). "Opposition Woos Japan's Voters With Costly Vows". New York Times.
  47. Fujioka, Chisa (2009-08-21). "Japan opposition may score landslide win: media". Reuters.
  48. 1 2 3 4 5 民主代表選 鳩山氏が優位、岡田氏は参院に照準, Asahi Shimbun, 16 May 2009

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