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Discusses Japan’s political immobilism caused by lack of strong ministerial leadership and failure of reform initiatives. Attributes it to the power of factions within political parties which reforms have failed to break and the dominance of the bureaucracy. Paper surveys the two decades since 1993 when the LDP monopoly first broke down and specially the Koizumi years (2001-6). It traces the difficulties of institutional change back to the constitution formulated during Allied occupation of Japan (1945-52) and discusses how far Japan follows, and can aspire to, a two-party system on a Westminster model.

Discusses the system of government inaugurated in 1955 and the way in which it has been changed over the years, quoting earlier authors. This has tended to be a ‘state-party cartel’ whereby Japan’s rapid economic growth was fostered by the alliance between the LDP, the bureaucracy and big business. After failure of Socialist party, parties had to resort to coalition politics in order to achieve united opposition.