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Japan general election, 2003

A general election took place in Japan on November 9, 2003. Incumbent Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi won the election but with a reduced majority. The opposition Democratic Party made considerable gains, winning nearly 180 seats, its largest share ever. Other traditional parties like the Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party lost significant numbers of seats, making a two-party system a possibility in future Japanese politics.

Table of contents
1 Background
2 Results
3 Reference
4 External links


On October 11, 2003, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi dissolved the House of Representatives of the Diet after he was re-elected as the Liberal Democratic Party chief on September 20. The dissolution was based on Article 7 of the Constitution of Japan, which can be interpreted as saying that the Prime Minister has the power to dissolve the lower house after so advising the Emperor. The election was the first since Koizumi was named Prime Minister in April 2001. The major participants were the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ). The LDP retains strong support in rural areas and among older voters due to heavy subsidies in agriculture, while the DPJ has had greater support among youth and in urban areas. However, this has tended to favor the LDP, because sparsely populated rural districts have disproportionate weight in Japan's electoral system.

Some of the issues facing candidates were: the ongoing economic recession; reform of the public pension system; the extent of Japan's support of the U.S. in Iraq; Japan's relationship with North Korea; and the privatization of the postal service and Tokyo-area highways.

The last general election of the Lower House took place in June 2000 when Yoshiro Mori was Prime Minister.


National newspapers concluded that the election benefitted the DPJ more so than the LDP. The DPJ gained 40 more seats, making it the largest opposition party with a total lower-house membership of 177. Among those in the ruling coalition, only the New Clean Government Party (Komeito) made gains, bringing its total lower-house membership to 34 from 31 members before the election. Since Prime Minister Koizumi was unable to gain more seats for the LDP based upon his high approval ratings -- around 60% -- some experts believe the election has left Koizumi a weakened Prime Minister.

The LDP performed well in rural areas while the DPJ performed well in urban areas. The turnout was 59.86%, the second lowest since 1945. The average age of new members of the house was 51.03, 3.2 years younger than in the previous election. Among new members, 302 were born after 1945. After the election, the total number of women in the lower-house decreased to 34 from 35 before the election.

Poll data collected early in the election season and in exit polls highlight the role of swing voters, who accounted for 18% of the total vote. According to Asahi Shimbun, more than half of swing voters voted for the DPJ.

The LDP failed to achieve an absolute majority by itself, requiring it to maintain its coalition with the New Clean Government Party and the New Conservative Party. Senior politicians in the LDP attribute the results to disenfranchisement among traditional supporters of the LDP, resulting in an increased dependency on the coalition. Some politicians in the LDP are concerned about the influence of the New Clean Government Party on LDP policy because of the dependency.

Some experts believe the Democratic Party of Japan has emerged an effective opposition party to the entrenched LDP. During the campaign, the DPJ produced an itemized policy manifesto -- a first in post-war Japanese elections -- and publicized a "shadow cabinet" (with Naoto Kan as Prime Minister), which is usually created by political parties during election season in the United Kingdom, for example. The DPJ also criticized the reforms proposed by Koizumi and the LDP’s sluggishness in their implementation, as well as the LDP's position on Iraq.

Smaller parties performed poorly. The Social Democratic Party lost 3 seats, bringing their lower-house membership to 6, while the Japanese Communist Party lost 11 seats, bringing their total membership to 9 from 20 before the election. The New Conservative Party lost 5 seats, lowering their total to 4 seats from 9 seats. The Japanese Communist Party blamed the negative results on the media, which they claimed focused on the LDP and DPJ.

Although the LDP failed to secure a simple majority, the ruling bloc had a majority and is expected to stay in power. On November 19, the Diet appointed Junichiro Koizumi the Prime Minister in its short special session [1].

Party Single-member
LDP 168 69 237 (247)

105 72 177 (137)
Komeito 9 25 34 (31)
JCP 0 9 9 (20)
SDP 1 5 6 (18)
CP 4 0 4 (9)
Independents Party 1 0 1 (5)
Jiyuu-rengo 1 0 1 (1)
Shoha 0 0 0 (2)
Independents 11 - 11 (6)

Numbers in parentheses indicate seats held before the election.

Another presentation of the results

''(Source: Adam Carr's Election Archive, using figures from Yomiuri Online)''

== These figures are an aggregation of votes cast in the Block constituencies. Votes and seats are compared with those won at the 2000 elections. -------------------------------------------------------------------------- Seats Party Votes % Con Blk Total -------------------------------------------------------------------------- Clean Government 8,733,444 14.8 (+01.7) 9 25 34 +05 Communist 4,586,172 07.7 (-03.6) - 9 9 -11 Democratic 22,095,606 37.4 (+11.9) 105 72 177 +48 Liberal Democratic 20,660,185 34.9 (+06.2) 168 69 237 -02 Social Democratic 3,072,390 05.2 (-04.2) 1 5 6 -09 Others - 17 - 17 -------------------------------------------------------------------------- Total 59,102,797 300 180 480 -------------------------------------------------------------------------- "Con" means seats won in single-member constituencies. "Blk" means seats won by proportional representation in the Block constituencies. Votes for the Conservative Party are included with the Liberal Democrats, with whom they merged after the elections.


External links