The LDP has near continuously been in power since its foundation in 1955, with the exception of a period between 1993 and 1994, and again from 2009 to 2012. In the 2012 election it regained control of government. It holds 291 seats in the lower house and 121 seats in the upper house, with the Komeito the governing coalition has the supermajority in both houses. Prime Minister Shinzō Abe and many present and former LDP ministers are also known members of Nippon Kaigi, a monarchist and negationist organization.
The LDP is not to be confused with the now-defunct Liberal Party (自由党 Jiyūtō), which merged with the Democratic Party of Japan (民主党 Minshutō) to become the Democratic Party (民進党 Minshintō), the main opposition party until 2017.
Liberal Democratic Party
自由民主党 or 自民党
Jiyū-Minshutō or Jimintō
|Councillors leader||Seiko Hashimoto|
|Representatives leader||Shinzō Abe|
|Founded||15 November 1955|
|Headquarters||11-23, Nagatachō 1-chome, Chiyoda, Tokyo 100-8910, Japan|
|Membership (2016)||1,043,790 |
|Political position||Centre-right to right-wing|
|Colors||Green and Red|
125 / 242
284 / 465
|Prefectural assembly members||
1,338 / 2,675
|City and town assembly members||
2,013 / 30,490
The LDP was formed in 1955 as a merger between two of Japan's political parties, the Liberal Party (自由党 Jiyutō, 1945–1955, led by Shigeru Yoshida) and the Japan Democratic Party (日本民主党 Nihon Minshutō, 1954–1955, led by Ichirō Hatoyama), both right-wing conservative parties, as a united front against the then popular Japan Socialist Party (日本社会党 Nipponshakaitō), now Social Democratic Party (社会民主党 Shakaiminshutō). The party won the following elections, and Japan's first conservative government with a majority was formed by 1955. It would hold majority government until 1993.
The LDP began with reforming Japan's international relations, ranging from entry into the United Nations, to establishing diplomatic ties with the Soviet Union. Its leaders in the 1950s also made the LDP the main government party, and in all the elections of the 1950s, the LDP won the majority vote, with the only other opposition coming from the left-wing politics, made up of the Japan Socialist Party and the Japanese Communist Party.
From the 1950s through the 1970s, the United States Central Intelligence Agency spent millions of dollars attempting to influence elections in Japan to favor the LDP against more leftist parties such as the Socialists and the Communists, although this was not revealed until the mid-1990s when it was exposed by The New York Times.
For the majority of the 1960s, the LDP (and Japan) were led by Eisaku Satō, beginning with the hosting of the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, and ending in 1972 with Japanese neutrality in the Vietnam War and with the beginning of the Japanese asset price bubble. By the end of the 1970s, the LDP went into its decline, where even though it held the reins of government many scandals plagued the party, while the opposition (now joined with the Komeito (Former)) gained momentum.
In 1976, in the wake of the Lockheed bribery scandals, a handful of younger LDP Diet members broke away and established their own party, the New Liberal Club (Shin Jiyu Kurabu). A decade later, however, it was reabsorbed by the LDP.
By the late 1970s, the Japan Socialist Party, the Japanese Communist Party, and the Komeito along with the international community used major pressure to have Japan switch diplomatic ties from the Republic of China to the People's Republic of China. During the 1980s, the LDP was responsible for Japan's unprecedented economic growth, and the successful economy.
By the early 1990s, the LDP's nearly four decades in power allowed it to establish a highly stable process of policy formation. This process would not have been possible if other parties had secured parliamentary majorities. LDP strength was based on an enduring, although not unchallenged, coalition of big business, small business, agriculture, professional groups, and other interests. Elite bureaucrats collaborated closely with the party and interest groups in drafting and implementing policy. In a sense, the party's success was a result not of its internal strength but of its weakness. It lacked a strong, nationwide organization or consistent ideology with which to attract voters. Its leaders were rarely decisive, charismatic, or popular. But it functioned efficiently as a locus for matching interest group money and votes with bureaucratic power and expertise. This arrangement resulted in corruption, but the party could claim credit for helping to create economic growth and a stable, middle-class Japan.
Seven opposition parties—including several formed by LDP dissidents—formed a government headed by LDP dissident Morihiro Hosokawa of the Japan New Party. However, the LDP was still far and away the largest party in the House of Representatives, with well over 200 seats; no other party crossed the 80-seat mark.
In 1994, the Socialist Party and New Party Sakigake left the ruling coalition, joining the LDP in the opposition. The remaining members of the coalition tried to stay in power as a makeshift minority government, but this failed when the LDP and the Socialists, bitter rivals for 40 years, formed a majority coalition. The new government was dominated by the LDP, but it allowed a Socialist to occupy the Prime Minister's chair until 1996, when the LDP's Ryutaro Hashimoto took over.
In the 1996 election, the LDP made some gains, but was still 12 seats short of a majority. However, no other party could possibly form a government, and Hashimoto formed a solidly LDP minority government. Through a series of floor-crossings, the LDP regained its majority within a year.
The party was practically unopposed until 1998, when the opposition Democratic Party of Japan was formed. Since then the opposition has been gaining momentum, especially in the 2003 and 2004 Parliamentary Elections.
In the dramatically paced 2003 House of Representatives elections, the LDP won 237 seats, while the DPJ won 177 seats. In the 2004 House of Councillors elections, in the seats up for grabs, the LDP won 49 seats and the DPJ 50, though in all seats (including those uncontested) the LDP still had a total of 114. Because of this electoral loss, former Secretary General Shinzō Abe turned in his resignation, but Party President Koizumi merely demoted him in rank, and he was replaced by Tsutomu Takebe.
On 10 November 2003, the New Conservative Party (Hoshu Shintō) was absorbed into the LDP, a move which was largely because of the New Conservative Party's poor showing in the 2003 general election. The LDP formed a coalition with the conservative Buddhist New Komeito.
After a victory in the Japan general election, 2005, the LDP held an absolute majority in the Japanese House of Representatives and formed a coalition government with the New Komeito Party. Abe succeeded then-Prime Minister Junichirō Koizumi as the president of the party on 20 September 2006. The party suffered a major defeat in the election of 2007, however, and lost its majority in the upper house for the first time in its history.
In a party leadership election held on 23 September 2007, the LDP elected Yasuo Fukuda as its President. Fukuda defeated Tarō Asō for the post, receiving 330 votes against 197 votes for Aso. However Fukuda resigned suddenly in September 2008, and Asō became Prime Minister after winning the presidency of the LDP in a 5-way election.
In the 2009 general election, the LDP was roundly defeated, winning only 118 seats—easily the worst defeat of a sitting government in modern Japanese history, and also the first real transfer of political power in the post-war era. Accepting responsibility for this severe defeat, Aso announced his resignation as LDP president on election night. Sadakazu Tanigaki was elected leader of the party on 28 September 2009, after a three-way race, becoming only the second LDP leader who was not simultaneously prime minister.
The party's support continued to decline, with prime ministers changing rapidly, and in the 2009 House of Representatives elections the LDP lost its majority, winning only 118 seats, marking the only time they would be out of the majority other than a brief period in 1993. Since that time, numerous party members have left to join other parties or form new ones, including Your Party (みんなの党 Minna no Tō), the Sunrise Party of Japan (たちあがれ日本 Tachiagare Nippon), and the New Renaissance Party (新党改革 Shintō Kaikaku). The party had some success in the 2010 House of Councilors election, netting 13 additional seats and denying the DPJ a majority. The LDP returned to power with its ally New Komeito after winning a clear majority in the lower house general election on 16 December 2012 after just over three years in opposition. Shinzo Abe became Prime Minister for the second time.
The LDP has not espoused a well-defined, unified ideology or political philosophy, due to its long-term regimes. Its members hold a variety of positions that could be broadly defined as being to the right of the opposition parties. The LDP traditionally identified itself with a number of general goals: rapid, export-based economic growth; close cooperation with the United States in foreign and defense policies; and several newer issues, such as administrative reform. Administrative reform encompassed several themes: simplification and streamlining of government bureaucracy; privatization of state-owned enterprises; and adoption of measures, including tax reform, in preparation for the expected strain on the economy posed by an aging society. Other priorities in the early 1990s included the promotion of a more active and positive role for Japan in the rapidly developing Asia-Pacific region, the internationalization of Japan's economy by the liberalization and promotion of domestic demand (expected to lead to the creation of a high-technology information society) and the promotion of scientific research. A business-inspired commitment to free enterprise was tempered by the insistence of important small business and agricultural constituencies on some form of protectionism and subsidies. In addition, the LDP opposes the legalization of same-sex marriage.
At the apex of the LDP's formal organization is the president (総裁 sōsai), who can serve three three-year terms (The presidential term was increased from two years to three years in 2002, and from two to three terms in 2017). When the party has a parliamentary majority, the party president is the prime minister. The choice of party president is formally that of a party convention composed of Diet members and local LDP figures, but in most cases, they merely approved the joint decision of the most powerful party leaders. To make the system more democratic, Prime Minister Takeo Fukuda introduced a "primary" system in 1978, which opened the balloting to some 1.5 million LDP members. The process was so costly and acrimonious, however, that it was subsequently abandoned in favor of the old "smoke-filled room" method — so-called in allusion to the notion of closed discussions held in small rooms filled with tobacco smoke.
After the party president, the most important LDP officials are the Secretary-General (kanjicho), and the chairmen of the LDP Executive Council (somukaicho) and of the Policy Affairs Research Council or "PARC" (政務調査会 seimu chōsakai).
The LDP is the most "traditionally Japanese" of the political parties because it relies on a complex network of patron-client (oyabun-kobun) relationships on both national and local levels. Nationally, a system of factions in both the House of Representatives and the House of Councillors ties individual Diet members to powerful party leaders. Locally, Diet members have to maintain koenkai (local support groups) to keep in touch with public opinion and gain votes and financial backing. The importance and pervasiveness of personal ties between Diet members and faction leaders and between citizens and Diet members gives the party a pragmatic "you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours" character. Its success depends less on generalized mass appeal than on the so-called sanban (three "ban"): jiban (a strong, well-organized constituency), kaban (a briefcase full of money), and kanban (prestigious appointment, particularly on the cabinet level).
The LDP had over five million party members in 1990, but by 2012 it had around 800,000.
Election statistics show that, while the LDP had been able to secure a majority in the twelve House of Representatives elections from May 1958 to February 1990, with only three exceptions (December 1976, October 1979, and December 1983), its share of the popular vote had declined from a high of 57.8 percent in May 1958 to a low of 41.8 percent in December 1976, when voters expressed their disgust with the party's involvement in the Lockheed scandal. The LDP vote rose again between 1979 and 1990. Although the LDP won an unprecedented 300 seats in the July 1986 balloting, its share of the popular vote remained just under 50 percent. The figure was 46.2 percent in February 1990. Following the three occasions when the LDP found itself a handful of seats shy of a majority, it was obliged to form alliances with conservative independents and the breakaway New Liberal Club. In a cabinet appointment after the October 1983 balloting, a non-LDP minister, a member of the New Liberal Club, was appointed for the first time. On 18 July 1993, lower house elections, the LDP fell so far short of a majority that it was unable to form a government.
In the upper house, the July 1989 election represented the first time that the LDP was forced into a minority position. In previous elections, it had either secured a majority on its own or recruited non-LDP conservatives to make up the difference of a few seats.
The political crisis of 1988–89 was testimony to both the party's strength and its weakness. In the wake of a succession of issues—the pushing of a highly unpopular consumer tax through the Diet in late 1988, the Recruit insider trading scandal, which tainted virtually all top LDP leaders and forced the resignation of Prime Minister Takeshita Noboru in April (a successor did not appear until June), the resignation in July of his successor, Uno Sōsuke, because of a sex scandal, and the poor showing in the upper house election—the media provided the Japanese with a detailed and embarrassing dissection of the political system. By March 1989, popular support for the Takeshita cabinet as expressed in public opinion polls had fallen to 9 percent. Uno's scandal, covered in magazine interviews of a "kiss and tell" geisha, aroused the fury of female voters.
Uno's successor, the eloquent if obscure Kaifu Toshiki, was successful in repairing the party's battered image. By January 1990, talk of the waning of conservative power and a possible socialist government had given way to the realization that, like the Lockheed affair of the mid-1970s, the Recruit scandal did not signal a significant change in who ruled Japan. The February 1990 general election gave the LDP, including affiliated independents, a comfortable, if not spectacular, majority: 275 of 512 total representatives.
In October 1991, Prime Minister Kaifu Toshiki failed to attain passage of a political reform bill and was rejected by the LDP, despite his popularity with the electorate. He was replaced as prime minister by Miyazawa Kiichi, a long-time LDP stalwart. Defections from the LDP began in the spring of 1992, when Hosokawa Morihiro left the LDP to form the Japan New Party. Later, in the summer of 1993, when the Miyazawa government also failed to pass political reform legislation, thirty-nine LDP members joined the opposition in a no-confidence vote. In the ensuing lower house election, more than fifty LDP members formed the Shinseitō and the Sakigake parties, denying the LDP the majority needed to form a government.
With the exception of Yohei Kono and Sadakazu Tanigaki, every President of the LDP (自由民主党総裁 Jiyū-Minshutō Sōsai) has also served as Prime Minister of Japan.
|No.||Name||Term of office||Image||Election results|
|Took Office||Left Office|
|Interim President Committee|
|15 November 1955||5 April 1956||Interim President Committee|
|28 January 1956|
|10 February 1956||5 April 1956|
|5 April 1956||14 December 1956||Unopposed
Ichirō Hatoyama - 394
|14 December 1956||21 March 1957||Tanzan Ishibashi - 258
Nobusuke Kishi - 251
|21 March 1957||14 July 1960||1957:
Nobusuke Kishi - 471
Kenzō Matsumura - 2
Tokutaro Kitamura - 1
Mitsujirō Ishii - 1
|14 July 1960||1 December 1964||1960:
Hayato Ikeda - 302
Mitsujirō Ishii - 194
|1 December 1964||5 July 1972||1964 negotiations:
Eisaku Satō -
Aiichirō Fujiyama - N
Ichirō Kōno - N
|5 July 1972||4 December 1974||Tanaka Kakuei - 282
Fukuda Takeo - 180
|4 December 1974||23 December 1976||1974 negotiations:
Takeo Miki -
Fukuda Takeo - N
Masayoshi Ōhira - N
Yasuhiro Nakasone - N
|23 December 1976||1 December 1978||1976 negotiations:
Fukuda Takeo -
Masayoshi Ōhira - N
|1 December 1978||12 June 1980||1978:
Masayoshi Ōhira - 748
Fukuda Takeo - 638
Yasuhiro Nakasone - 93
Toshio Kōmoto - 46
|12 June 1980||15 July 1980||Acting|
|15 July 1980||25 November 1982||1980 negotiations:
Zenko Suzuki -
Kiichi Miyazawa - N
Yasuhiro Nakasone - N
Toshio Kōmoto - N
|25 November 1982||31 October 1987||1982:
Yasuhiro Nakasone - 57.6%
Toshio Kōmoto - 27.2%
Shintarō Abe - 8.2%
Ichirō Nakagawa - 6.8%
|31 October 1987||2 June 1989||1987 negotiations:
Noboru Takeshita -
Shintarō Abe - N
Kiichi Miyazawa - N
|2 June 1989||8 August 1989||1989 negotiations:
Sōsuke Uno -
Masayoshi Itō - N
|8 August 1989||30 October 1991||Toshiki Kaifu - 279
Yoshirō Hayashi - 120
Shintarō Ishihara - 48
|31 October 1991||29 July 1993||Kiichi Miyazawa - 285
Michio Wantanabe - 120
Hiroshi Mitsuzuka - 87
|29 July 1993||1 October 1995||Yōhei Kōno - 208
Michio Wantanabe - 159
|1 October 1995||24 July 1998||Unopposed|
|24 July 1998||5 April 2000||1998:
Keizō Obuchi - 225
Seiroku Kajiyama - 102
Junichiro Koizumi - 84
|5 April 2000||24 April 2001||2000 negotiations:
Yoshirō Mori -
Mikio Aoki - N
Masakuni Murakami - N
Hiromu Nonaka - N
Shizuka Kamei - N
|24 April 2001||20 September 2006||2001:
Junichiro Koizumi - 298
Ryutaro Hashimoto - 155
Tarō Asō - 31
|20 September 2006||26 September 2007||see election Sep 2006
Shinzō Abe - 464
Tarō Asō - 136
Sadakazu Tanigaki - 102
|26 September 2007||22 September 2008||see election 2007
Yasuo Fukuda - 330
Tarō Asō - 197
|22 September 2008||16 September 2009||see election 2008
Tarō Asō - 351
Kaoru Yosano - 66
Yuriko Koike - 46
Nobuteru Ishihara - 37
Shigeru Ishiba - 25
|28 September 2009||26 September 2012||see election 2009
Sadakazu Tanigaki - 300
Taro Kono - 144
Yasutoshi Nishimura - 58
|26 September 2012||Incumbent||2012:
Shinzō Abe - 108
Shigeru Ishiba - 89
|Election||Leader||# of candidates||# of seats won||# of Constituency votes||% of Constituency vote||# of PR Block votes||% of PR Block vote||Government/Opposition|
289 / 467
300 / 467
283 / 467
277 / 486
288 / 486
271 / 491
249 / 511
248 / 511
284 / 511
250 / 511
300 / 512
275 / 512
223 / 511
|22,999,646||36.62%||Opposition (until 1994)|
|LDP-JSP-NPS coalition (since 1994)|
239 / 500
233 / 480
237 / 480
296 / 480
119 / 480
294 / 480
291 / 475
284 / 465
|Election||Leader||# of seats total||# of seats won||# of National votes
from 1983: # of Proportional votes
| % of National vote
from 1983: % of Proportional vote
|# of Prefectural votes||% of Prefectural vote|
122 / 250
61 / 125
132 / 250
71 / 125
142 / 250
69 / 125
140 / 251
71 / 125
137 / 250
69 / 125
131 / 249
62 / 125
126 / 250
62 / 125
125 / 249
63 / 125
135 / 250
69 / 125
137 / 252
68 / 126
143 / 252
72 / 126
109 / 252
36 / 126
106 / 252
68 / 126
111 / 252
46 / 126
102 / 252
44 / 126
111 / 247
64 / 121
115 / 242
49 / 121
83 / 242
37 / 121
84 / 242
51 / 121
115 / 242
65 / 121
121 / 242
56 / 121