Few aspects of contemporary Japan inspire as much controversy as its party-political order. For mainstream scholars, Japan is a working liberal democracy similar to those of western Europe or the United States. For revisionists, Japanese electoral politics are a travesty that has little to do with popular representation, and everything to do with structural corruption and special interests. For culturalist scholars, Japan’s politics reflect the distinctive nature of the country’s history and culture, and attempts to draw comparisons with other nations are therefore often inappropriate. Revisionist critiques of the Japanese political system were based partly on the fact that the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) was able to govern almost continuously from 1955 to 2009 — with the exception of a brief interlude between 1993 and 1994, followed by a spell during which the LDP formed the largest party in a coalition administration. However, the decisive defeat of the LDP by the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) in 2009 had the effect of ‘normalizing’ Japanese politics, demonstrating that power could change hands from one major party to another.
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