Reassessing Presidents and Prime Ministers in North America, Europe and Japan
Edited by Ludger Helms
Chapter 9: Profiles in Discourage: Prime Ministerial Leadership in Post-war Japan
1 Ellis S. Krauss and Robert Pekkanen Despite stiff competition for the title, Japan figures in any conversation about which country has the worst leadership in the G-8. However, Japanese governments in the past have sometimes won plaudits for their effectiveness. At the least, the mention of Japan’s industrial policy used to strike terror into the hearts of the other G-8 nations although those longgone reputed successes were attributed to the bureaucracy and not to the political leadership. Otherwise, there have been so many unpopular and poor or at best irrelevant governing leaders that examples of success and good governance stand out and the choice among the others is legion. The choice is particularly difficult because Japan has had 30 prime ministers since its post-war constitution was adopted in 1947 – some in office as briefly as two months but with only three prime ministers whose incumbency lasted more than three consecutive years – a record with the dubious distinction second only to post-war Italy whose government turnovers have been legendary.2 Also similar to post-war Italy, this record of instability at the top was accomplished for many years with extraordinary stability in party governance. Only one political party, the conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), governed Japan from its founding in 1955 until its only electoral defeat in 2009, with the exception of a ten-month period in 1993‒94 when a party split allowed an opposition coalition to take power briefly.3 In 1994, however, there was an electoral reform that changed the Japanese...
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