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Liberal Democratic Party of Japan
Updated: 2009-08-27 14:55

Liberal Democratic Party of Japan

Taro Aso, prime minister of Japan and leader of the Liberal Democratic Party of Japan, is seen in this undated photo. [Agencies]

The Liberal Democratic Party (Jiyū-Minshutō), frequently abbreviated to LDP or Jimintō, is a centre right, conservative political party and the largest party in Japan and one of the most consistently successful political parties in the democratic world.

It has ruled for most of the years since its founding in 1955. It is not to be confused with the now-defunct Liberal Party (Jiyūtō), which merged with the Democratic Party of Japan, the main opposition party, in November 2003.

After a striking victory in the Japan general election in 2005, the LDP held an absolute majority in the Japanese House of Representatives and formed a coalition government with the New Komeito Party. Shinzo Abe succeeded then-Prime Minister Junichiro 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. On 12 September 2007 Abe abruptly resigned his position as Prime Minister; he was replaced by Yasuo Fukuda. Fukuda in turn resigned on 1 September 2008, being replaced by Taro Aso.


The LDP was formed in 1955 as a party merger between Japan's two oppositional parties, the Liberal Party (Jiyutō, 1950--1955, led by Shigeru Yoshida) and the Japan Democratic Party (Nihon Minshutō, 1954--1955, led by Ichirō Hatoyama), both right-wing conservative parties, as a united front against the then popular Japan Socialist Party.

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.

But by 1993, the end of the miracle economy and other reasons (e.g. Recruit scandal) led to the LDP losing that year's election, ending a 38-year reign over Japan. The winners, made up of opposition parties, formed a government under the liberal Japan Renewal Party.

In 1994, the Socialists and New Party Sakigake left the ruling coalition, joining the LDP in the opposition. The remaining coalition of liberal parties tried to form a makeshift minority government.

This collapsed in 1994, when the Japan Socialist Party (JSP) formed a majority coalition with its former arch-rival the LDP. The LDP was thus returned to power, although it allowed a Socialist to occupy the Prime Minister's chair.

By 1996, the LDP was returned to power as a majority party. 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 Shinzo 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.

Today, the LDP forms a coalition government with the conservative Buddhist New Komeito. The current party president is Prime Minister Aso Taro.

Former Prime Ministers Junichiro Koizumi and Shinzo Abe are also LDP members. The LDP remained the largest party in both houses of the Diet, until 29 July 2007, when the LDP lost its majority in the upper house.

In a party leadership election held on 23 September 2007, the LDP elected Yasuo Fukuda as its President. Fukuda defeated Taro Aso for the post, receiving 330 votes against 197 votes for Aso.

Since then Fukuda has resigned, and Aso became Prime Minister after winning the presidency of the LDP in a 5-way election.

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