Japan in the 1990’s Part II

According to THENAILMYTHOLOGY.COM, the Nineties saw the end of the political system that had long guaranteed Japan economic growth and stability, defined by political scientists one and half party: a dominant conservative party, the Jimintō (Liberal Party), and a plurality of parties d ‘ opposition, led by the Socialist Party, unable to impose alternation. Between 1992 and 1993, with the crisis of the Liberal Democratic Party (a party that since 1955 had governed the country by establishing the so-called iron triangle with the bureaucracy and the top of the economic world), began a long and chaotic phase of changes within the party system, punctuated by continuous splits and re-aggregations in the frantic search for a new balance bipolar type which appeared difficult to reach. The initial moment of this troubled phase of political transition was the fall of the cabinet of K. Miyazawa (June 1993): preceded by a series of scandals involving numerous Liberal Democratic leaders, the fall was determined by the split from the Liberal Democratic Party of a large group of parliamentarians, led by I. Ōzawa, following personal conflicts between the heads of the factions (habatsu) which had always represented the party’s most important structural data and which, until the mid-1980s, had guaranteed dynamism to the political system.

Following the elections of July 1993 for the renewal of the House of Representatives (where the Liberal Democrats went down by 461 % of the seats to 366 %), the Liberal Democratic Party was outnumbered by a ‘rainbow’ coalition comprising all the other political forces (with the exception of the Communist Party which, isolated on the left, managed to broaden its niche as an anti-system party), united by the sole objective to form a united front against the Liberal Democratic Party. The coalition included the Socialist Party (the great historical enemy of the Liberal Democrats) and three neo-conservative parties made up of defectors from the Liberal Democratic Party, including the Renewal Party constituted by Ōzawa. The Socialists preferred M. Hosokawa, a former Liberal Democrat who in 1992 it had given birth to the New Party of Japan, considered by public opinion to be the possible protagonist of a ‘moralization’ and a political change.

Strongly opposed by the powerful bureaucracy opposed to his policy of deregulation, Hosokawa faced the problem of electoral reform, approved in January 1994, but in April he was accused of financial wrongdoing and forced to resign. T. Hata’s cabinet, imposed by Ōzawa after the fall of Hosokawa, lasted just 59 days, due to a sudden and sensational turnaround by the socialists, I decided to form a coalition government with the eternal enemies, the liberal democrats (considered less dangerous than the neoliberal and decision-maker Ōzawa). The ‘strange alliance’ appeared to be a tactical expedient of the two great post-war parties to manage the transition themselves, overcoming the profound conflicts of the past which mainly concerned foreign policy issues. With the Office of the Social Democratic T. Murayama, who won the confidence the 25 July 1994, on the eve of the summit of the G 7 in Naples, the Socialists returned to power after 47 years. However, political concessions to the Liberal Democratic Party – starting with the US-Japan Security Treaty and the sending of Japanese forces into UN peacekeeping operations – severely weakened the Socialist Party’s identity and drastically reduced its own electoral base. Conversely, the Liberal Democrats laid the foundations for winning the great electoral clash of October 1996, the first elections of the House of Representatives under the new electoral law, according to which the number of members of the House of Representatives was reduced (from 511 to 500), and introduced the proportional system for 40 % of deputies; constituencies were also redesigned to reduce the impact of voting in rural areas – traditionally conservative – and a system was finally adopted that limited the amount of private funding to parties.

In March 1995, a nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway left 12 dead and more than 5,000 injured. The responsibility for the terrorist act was attributed to the Aum Shinrikyō religious sect created by S. Asahara who, following a second attack the following month, was arrested and tried. The attack had partly exacerbated public distrust of the political class, in difficulty in the face of the crisis in the country and largely involved in episodes of corruption and bad governance, so that in April 1995 two television celebrities had won in Tōkyō and Ōsaka during the local elections, who presented themselves as independent candidates. In the elections for the partial renewal of the House of Councilors in July of the same year, the percentage of voters reached just 45 %. Of the 126 seats up for grabs (half of the total members of the upper house), 49 went to the Liberal Party, 16 to the Socialists, 3 to the Shintō-Sakigake party (Party of the new initiative, born in 1993 from a split of the Liberal Democratic Party). With 40 seats and 30 % of votes, notable was the affirmation of a new conservative party, the New Frontier Party (Shinshintō), created by Ōzawa in December 1994 with the merger of nine political formations including the Kōmeitō (Clean Government Party), arm politician of the powerful Buddhist organization Sōka Gakkai (Society of the creation of values). The defeat prompted some members of the Liberal Democratic Party to question the leadership of President Y. Kōno, who was replaced in September 1995 by R. Hashimoto. In October of the same year the Minister of Justice was forced to resign for having received illicit funding from a Buddhist group; the same fate befell the Director General of the Management Agency in November, who had expressed ‘revisionist’ views on Japanese colonial rule in Korea.

In this climate of political instability, exacerbated by scandals involving many of the country’s financial institutions, the Murayama government fell in January 1996, and was replaced by a new coalition government led by Hashimoto. Among the initiatives of the Hashimoto cabinet, measures should be noted, however, which proved to be of little effectiveness, which aimed at the rehabilitation of the financial sector in crisis, the expansion of domestic demand and greater control of political power over the ministerial bureaucracy, discredited by a series of scandals (particularly serious was that relating to blood products contaminated by the AIDS virus which had infected 1,800 haemophiliacs).

Japan in the 1990's 2