Public Governance in Asia and the Limits of Electoral Democracy
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Public Governance in Asia and the Limits of Electoral Democracy

Edited by Brian Bridges and Lok Sang Ho

This book documents the search for a workable model of democracy in Asia. It begins with two conceptual chapters that explore the role of electoral democracy as a governance mechanism in the light of other governance mechanisms, then reviews the various forms of Asian democracy, including those that many may consider to be in name rather than in substance, that have been practiced to date, and indicates where these models may have failed or succeeded. Underpinned by extensive case studies, valuable insights into governance and democracy in Asia – arguably one of the most fascinating and dynamic regions in the world – are provided.
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Chapter 5: Japan: Political Longevity and Troubled Governance

Brian Bridges


Brian Bridges Japan has become in many ways a paradox. One of the world’s most important economic powers, Japan has frequently been a ‘hesitant superpower’ in terms of being a force in global political and security affairs. It has a vibrant and pluralistic political party system, yet for most of the past five decades it has been dominated by one political party, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). Geographically and culturally in Asia, its post-war history has made it economically and politically part of the ‘West’; at times it finds it difficult to shake off this dichotomy. Home to concepts of business management and logistical production widely admired globally, Japan nonetheless seems curiously inefficient and resistant to change at times. Despite starting from a justifiable claim to be the first democracy in East Asia, with democratic reforms dating back to the Meiji era, Japan has been subject to critical comment as not living up to ‘Western’ democratic standards in practice. After more than two centuries of relative seclusion, Japan found itself in the mid-nineteenth century forced to open up to Western pressure, but unlike China, which proved weak and unable to resist being ‘carved up’ by the Western powers, Japan determined to avoid the same fate by learning from the West. The new Japanese leaders who took power after the Meiji Restoration of 1868 assiduously travelled the world, bringing back ideas, technology and institutional practices. Within a few decades rapid social and economic transformation had catapulted Japan into a modern nation-state...

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