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Democratic Party of Japan
Updated: 2009-08-27 14:20

The Democratic Party of Japan is a political party in Japan founded in 1998 by the merger of several opposition parties.

Democratic Party of Japan

Yukio Hatoyama, leader of the Democratic Party of Japan.

It is the second-largest party in the House of Representatives and the largest party in the House of Councillors, and it constitutes the primary opposition to the long-dominant Liberal Democratic Party.

It is not to be confused with the now-defunct Japan Democratic Party that merged with the Liberal Party in 1955 to form the Liberal Democratic Party.


The Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) was formed on April 27, 1998. It was a merger of four previously independent parties that were opposed to the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP)--the previous Democratic Party of Japan, the Good Governance Party (Minseitō), the New Fraternity Party (Shintō-Yuuai), and the Democratic Reform Party (Minshu-Kaikaku-Rengō).

These were all new parties that were either liberal or social-democratic. The new party began with ninety-three members of the House of Representatives and thirty-eight members of the House of Councilors.

Moreover, the party officials were elected as well at the party convention for the first time; Naoto Kan, former Health and Welfare Minister was appointed as the president of the party and Tsutomu Hata, former Prime Minister as Secretary-General.

On September 24, 2003, the party formally merged with the small, centre-right Liberal Party led by Ichirō Ozawa--the move was largely considered to be done in preparation for the election on November 9, 2003. This move immediately gave the DPJ eight more seats in the House of Councilors.

In the 2003 general election the DPJ gained a total of 178 seats. This was short of their objectives, but nevertheless a significant demonstration of the new group's strength. Following a pension scandal, Naoto Kan resigned, and was replaced with a moderate liberal--Katsuya Okada.

In the 2004 House of Councilors elections, the DPJ won a seat more than the ruling Liberal Democrats, but the LDP still maintained its firm majority in total votes. This was the first time since its inception that the LDP had garnered fewer votes than another party.

The 2005 snap parliamentary elections called by Junichiro Koizumi in response to the rejection of his Postal privatisation bills saw a major setback to the DPJ's plans of obtaining a majority in the Diet. The DPJ leadership, particularly Okada, had staked their reputation on winning the election and driving the LDP from power.

When the final results were in, the DPJ had lost 62 seats, mostly to its rival the LDP. Okada resigned the party leadership, fulfilling his campaign promise to do so if the DPJ did not obtain a majority in the Diet. He was replaced by Seiji Maehara in September 2005.

However, Maehara's term as party leader lasted barely half a year. Although he initially led the party's criticism of the Koizumi administration, particularly in regards to connections between LDP lawmakers and scandal-ridden Livedoor, the revelation that a fake email was used to try and establish this link greatly damaged his credibility.

The scandal led to the resignation of Representative Hisayasu Nagata and of Maehara as party leader on March 31. New elections for party leader were held on April 7, in which Ichirō Ozawa was elected President.

In Upper House election 2007, the DPJ won 60 out of 121 contested seats, with 49 seats not up to the election. Ozawa resigned as party leader in May 2009 after a fundraising scandal and Yukio Hatoyama succeeded Ozawa.


The Democratic Party claim themselves to be revolutionary in that they are against the current status quo and the governing establishment. The Democratic Party finds that the bureaucracy of the Japanese government size is too large, inefficient, and saturated with cronies and that the Japanese state is too conservative and stiff.

The Democratic Party wants to "overthrow the ancient régime locked in old thinking and vested interests, solve the problems at hand, and create a new, flexible, affluent society which values people's individuality and vitality."

The Democratic Party finds that a free market economic system is favorable for Japanese people's welfare. The claim is that they represent "citizens, taxpayers and consumers," not seeking to favor either free market or the welfare state and see the government's role as limited to building the necessary system for self-reliant and independent individuals.

The Democratic Party seeks to introduce transparency of government and a decentralization of government agencies to local organizational structures including to let citizens themselves provide former government services and have a society with more just and fair rules.

The Democratic party proclaims to hold the values in the meaning of the constitution to "embody the fundamental principles of the Constitution: popular sovereignty, respect for fundamental human rights, and pacifism," having an international-policy non-intervention and mutual coexistence and to restore the world's trust in Japan.