Abstract: Scholars and practitioners express concern that parties in “third wave” democracies are poorly developed, compared to parties in older democracies. We suggest that parties vary in their organizational “capacity”, focusing on parties’ ability to select trustworthy executive agents. Capacity is higher where parties can vet potential executive talent by observing future leaders over time in the legislature – an increasingly available option as democracy matures. The key distinction in parties’ use of this option lies in the delegation structure between a party and the executive. Parliamentary systems offer a clear line of delegation, which parties control. In presidential systems, parties must recruit executive candidates who can win a popular election, requiring characteristics that may not be well correlated with those that make them good party agents. As parliamentary democracy matures, we find a steady increase in prime ministers’ average length of prior legislative service. For presidents, there is significantly weaker growth in prior legislative service. We also theorize about and investigate patterns in semi-presidential democracies. Our findings suggest that the institutional format of the executive is more important for party capacity in new democracies than the era in which a democracy was born. [↩]
Two electoral systems that use “nontransferable preference votes” are commonly used: single nontransferable vote (SNTV) and open-list proportional representation (OLPR). Both systems promote intraparty competition by vote-seeking candidates, but differ on the extent to which the incentives of individual candidates and collective seat-maximizing parties are aligned, or not. We develop “logical models” of expected vote shares of parties’ first and last winners, and test (and confirm) these models using “symmetric regression” on an original data set drawn from over 2000 party-district observations in nine countries. The analysis helps bring us closer to an understanding of the relatively neglected “intraparty dimension” of representation, and allows us to offer some modest suggestions for improving systems of nontransferable preference votes. [↩]
Democratic representation involves tradeoffs between collective actors – political parties seeking to maximize seats – and individual actors – candidates seeking to use their personal vote-earning attributes (PVEAs) to maximize their own chance of election and reelection. We analyze these tradeoffs across three different electoral systems used at different times for the large-magnitude nationwide tier of Japan’s House of Councillors. These electoral systems – closed and open-list proportional systems and the single non-transferable vote – differ in the extent to which they entail candidates seeking individual preference votes and in whether collective vote shares affect overall party performance. We use local resources as a proxy for PVEA and seek to determine the extent to which parties nominate “locals” and how much the presence of such locals affects party performance at the level of Japan’s prefectures. [↩]
The following post is by Professor Michael Thies of UCLA. [Corrected since initial posting.]
One weirdness of MMP is what to do when a party wins more seats in single-seat districts than its PR vote share would have earned. A few “overhang seats” are easy enough to deal with, but I wondered how last month’s Japanese election results would have looked under MMP (with the dubious assumption that nothing else changes).
If we simplify and assume nationwide PR, and use the PR vote shares that each party actually earned in the 16 December election (1st column of the table below) for all 480 seats, the 2nd column shows the seats “earned.”
If this were Germany, with overhang seats, the LDP would get to keep all 237 SMD seats (not 294 combined total that it actually received, because it would get no PR seats), and the legislature would have to grow to 584 seats. Of course, if overhangs were not part of the rule, the LDP would have 27.6 percent of the seats instead of the 61.3% they do have. This way, LDP-Kom would be well short of a majority (133+57)/480 = 39.6% w/o overhangs, and with a slim majority with overhangs: (237+57)/584 = 50.3%.
Following up on our earlier review of the 2012 Japanese House of Representatives election, the graph below shows the patterns of two-party competition in the nominal tier, consisting of 300 single-seat districts, won by plurality. The graph plots a district’s winner’s vote percentage (vertical axis) against that of its runner-up (horizontal axis), showing the four most common district dyads. If a district featured two parties getting all of the votes, its marker would be on the diagonal line where the top two vote shares sum to 100%. There are no districts on this pure two-party line, though it is immediately obvious that almost all of those that are were close to it were won by the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), with the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) second.
Click the image for a larger version
As if we needed more evidence of the slaughter suffered by the DPJ, the graph makes clear how much worse it could have been. (more…)
You do not have to read Japanese to know that this means landslide. (This is the single-seat districts only; but even with the list-PR seats added in, the LDP and is ally, Komeito, have crossed the two-thirds mark.)
Shinzo Abe will get a second stint as Prime Minister.
It is an even bigger victory than the LDP’s most recent prior House of Representatives win in 2005. And this despite not having the hair factor so clearly in its favor.
I wonder how many election alternations have been as undeserving as this one. For that matter, how many proved as disastrous as the last one? The DPJ, winning big in 2009, proved utterly incompetent (even allowing for the rather bad hand it was dealt), and as various commentators have noted, it was not so much that the LDP won today’s election as that the DPJ simply folded.
There were various new parties that were at one point looking like they might break the LDP/DPJ dominance. But, largely due to the majoritarian elements of the mixed-member system Japan uses, there just wasn’t much chance of a breakthrough.
Japan’s PM Naoto Kan made it official, and resigned today. His Democratic Party of Japan will choose a successor next week.
The successor will be Japan’s sixth since the departure of Junichiro Koizumi in 2006. That’s a lot of PMs in a short time.
Why does Japan have such short-lived PMs? In one regard, maybe Japan is “typical.” After all, unlike presidents, who are essentially never forced out by their own parties, prime ministers are by definition agents of their parties (as well as of the legislative majority). Indeed, Samuels and Shugart (2010: 96) report that 30% of all PMs in parliamentary systems leave office for “intraparty” reasons (N=354). So there is nothing unusual about parties “firing” a PM. (Kan was not formally fired; few are. But no one doubts that it was intraparty politics that has led him to this point. He survived an internal challenge just months ago, and promised then not to remain for long.)
Still, in Japan an “intraparty” termination of a prime minister happens rather more often than in most parliamentary systems. Moreover, while short-lived prime ministers logically follow from the inter-factional politics that used to characterize the Liberal Democratic Party, they make much less sense following the electoral reforms of 1994. Besides, this is not the LDP. It’s the DPJ, which won a resounding electoral victory in 2009–and is already about to have its third PM since that election!
Under the old LDP system, “back-room” factional politics was the kingmaker, and the electoral system (SNTV) made factions and individual politicians the agents of representation at least as much as the party itself. It thus also made them agents of inter-electoral bargaining, hence the PM-ship was always subject to renegotiation.
This was supposed to change with the electoral reform–to mixed-member majoritarian (MMM). And much has changed, with factions becoming less important to leadership selection within the LDP, according to various accounts. And the 2001-06 rule of Koizumi suggested a real turn in the position of the PM vis-a-vis the party. The instability of PMs following Koizumi (three of them from 2006 to 2009) perhaps could be written off as an exhausted and about-to-lose party casting about for what it stood for and who could represent it. But the DPJ presents a puzzle. Its first PM did not even last a year, and its second has made it just over a year. The disasters that struck Japan earlier could cut either way–they could have been an opportunity for the party to rally around the leader. In any case, he was already in trouble politically prior to those events.
Generally speaking, PMs in “Westminster” type systems with a single ruling party should be less vulnerable to internal party challenges. The logic is that such political systems maximize the alignment of incentives within the party, and give the party ample opportunity to vet potential PMs so that those they choose enjoy the backing of the party. Thus leaders who head their party when it wins election usually stick around for at least the term, and if they win again, usually for a second term. (Yes, it is stylized, which does not mean it is not generally accurate, Australia’s anomaly notwithstanding. And things often get sticky during third terms–see above point about exhaustion and casting-about.)
Japan does not have a Westminster system, by usual definition. Yet the reform of the electoral system, from SNTV to MMM, was supposed to move the country’s politics in that direction. In many respects, it clearly has done so: factions less important, policies more so, alternation in government, two clear blocs instead of one dominant party and a fragmented opposition, etc. So why not more stability in the top post?
Japanese PM Naoto Kan survived the no-confidence motion against him in the House of Representatives.
To pass and compel Kan’s resignation (and probably early elections), the measure would have required a significant rupture in Kan’s own Democratic Party of Japan, which has a majority won in 2009. In the end, only a few of the threatened defections materialized, thanks to a last-minute meeting between Kan and his intra-party rivals, including the DPJ’s first post-election PM, Yukio Hatoyama.
One of the agreements stemming from the meeting is that Kan eventually will resign, supposedly as soon as the post-disaster situation is stabilized.
It is striking the extent to which Japan continues to face party leadership instability, in spite of the 1993 electoral reform that eliminated the old factional competition in elections (the single non-transferable vote). Other than Junichiro Koizumi (of the now-opposition but long-ruling Liberal Democrats), the Japanese premiership continues to be a precarious position.
A change of the electoral system for the House of Councilors, Japan’s second chamber (or upper house), is under consideration. The proposal has been advanced by the current president of the chamber, Takeo Nishioka.
The current system is a mixed-member majoritarian (MMM, or “parallel”) system, in which the nominal tier is mostly FPTP, but some districts are multi-seat, where SNTV is used. This tier currently elects 73 seats in any given triennial election, and 146 in total, given staggered 6-year terms. Another 48 at any election (thus 96 altogether) are elected in a single national district, using open-list PR.
The proposal would switch to open-list PR entirely, in nine regional districts–implying an average magnitude of 13.4 (121 seats per election in 9 districts). Apparently the national tier would be abolished, along with the nominal tier. No changes would be made to the staggered terms, as that would require a constitutional amendment.
The linked story makes one error, however. It says, “The current system allots seats to candidates according to a list fixed by their party prior to the election.” That implies closed, rather than the (fully) open lists that are used now. I am told by Japanese-literate contacts that the original version of the story did not have that error; so it must be a translators’ error.
The House of Councilors has been quite a laboratory of electoral systems over time. The nominal tier has been consistently FPTP or SNTV (depending on the district), but the national tier used closed lists from 1981 until 2001, when the current open-list system was adopted. Prior to 1981, the national tier was one large SNTV district.
The current nominal tier is quite severely malapportioned, a factor that triggered a Tokyo High Court ruling against the system recently. The impact of the malapportionment is clear from a glance at the 2010 election results. The DPJ and allies actually slightly outperformed the LDP and its allies in votes cast in the nominal tier, yet the LDP(+) won 42 seats to only 28 for the DPJ(+). Some of this may be due to coordination issues in the SNTV districts–discussed here with respect to the 2007 election–but most of it surely is the malapportionment. Of course, a regionalized PR system does not necessarily guarantee a lack of malapportionment, which would depend on how boundaries and magnitudes of districts determined.
The first second-chamber (House of Councilors) election since the Democratic Party of Japan ended the Liberal Democrats’ long run of power went badly for the party. It was not a drubbing, but the LDP won more of the seats at stake–especially in the single-seat races where the two parties went head-to-head.
The House of Councilors is elected by fixed six-year terms, half every three years. It does not have the power to remove a government or veto a budget, but in all other respects it is a powerful second chamber.
In less than a year in power, the DPJ has already had to change prime ministers and now this defeat. Not a promising beginning for Japan’s supposed new two-party era.
The Mainichi Daily News of 1 June reports that the SDP, having left the governing coalition, may join a no-confidence motion against the government of Yukio Hatoyama. Or then again, they might just abstain, according to the news item. (No chance of passage in any case.)
The SDP also may compete against the governing Democratic Party (DPJ) in the upcoming elections to the second chamber of parliament, although apparently not in all constituencies:
The SDP is expected to further its position as an opposition party, with Fukushima indicating the possibility that the party may back candidates for the House of Councillors election this summer in constituencies where it had heretofore refrained from doing so out of consideration for the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), their former coalition partner.
“I’ve heard that we may be fielding candidates in Nagano,” Fukushima said on a television program, regarding a constituency in which DPJ member and Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa is expected to run for a fourth term. “I’ve also been hearing about the possibility of somehow backing candidates in Iwate and Kanagawa prefectures. Electoral cooperation (with the DPJ) will only be conducted on a limited basis.” (My emphasis)
So, the SDP has decided to become a sort-of opposition party.
The Social Democratic Party has withdrawn from the coalition government of Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, after the PM fired SDP leader Mizuho Fukushima as his consumer affairs minister (AFP) for criticizing Hatoyama’s decision to retain the US base on Okinawa.
The full extent of the landslide alternation from the Liberal Democrats (LDP) to the Democrats (DPJ) is now clear.
The DPJ-led opposition camp secured 340 [really 331+] seats against just 140 for the LDP-New Komeito ruling bloc. In the opposition camp, the DPJ alone had 308. (Japan Times)
The DPJ’s pre-electoral allies, the Social Democrats and the Kokumin Shinto (People’s New Party), will join the DPJ in a coalition government. The correct number, I am advised by a trustworthy source, for the parties in the new governing bloc is 331, not 340. The Japan Times apparently lumped the Communists, who won 9 list seats, in with the former opposition. They are not part of the bloc that won this election, however. Neither are all of the six independents who won single-seat district races, but I am unclear on just how many should be counted with the winning bloc. In any case, the new government will have more than two thirds of the seats.
Several major figures in the outgoing governing coalition lost their single-seat races and some will not be in parliament at all, having not been nominated on a PR list (or not high enough on a list).
The LDP also lost some big names in single-seat races, including former Foreign Ministers Nobutaka Machimura and Taro Nakayama, as well as Finance Minister Kaoru Yosano and former Finance chief Shoichi Nakagawa.
However, Machimura and Yosano regained their seats in proportional representation.
New Komeito suffered even worse, with party chief Akihiro Ota and heavyweights Kazuo Kitagawa and Tetsuzo Fuyushiba all defeated in their single-seat districts. They didn’t “insure” themselves by putting their names on the party’s list of proportional-representation candidates.
More than any election since the mixed-member majoritarian (MMM) system was adopted sixteen years ago, this one featured the straight fight that we always expected between two opposing blocs of parties. And the result speaks loudly and decisively.
Despite the DPJ alone having a large majority, it still needs its coalition partners. The DPJ lacks a majority on its own in the second chamber of the Diet (parliament), and in any case, its first chamber majority would not have been as large had it not had stand-down agreements with its partners in single-seat districts.* It also needs to keep the partners on its side looking ahead to future elections. In this sense, by forming a coalition despite a large single-party majority, the DPJ is following the path set by the LDP, which formed a coalition with its pre-electoral allies even after its massive landslide in 2005. It is very much the pattern of governance to be expected from parliamentary systems with MMM.
The new House of Representatives will convene 14 September to approve the new coalition government, which was already taking shape before the election. Then comes the hard part.
* For instance, the SDP won 3 of its 7 seats in single-seat districts, and the Kokumin won all its 3 seats that way. In these cases, there was no DPJ candidate in the district. Likely there are some districts in which the DPJ margin over the LDP was made possible by the partners’ non-presence in the district with their own candidates.
As Japan’s House of Representative election of 30 August looms, it is looking increasingly likely that the long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) could be voted out of power for the first time.* In fact, it could be a debacle for the party, with the opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) and its pre-electoral allies winning a very large majority.
Yomiuri reports, from a recent poll, that the DPJ could win more than 300 seats. The chamber has 480 seats, so the majority could be very big. Three hundred of the seats in the house are elected in single-seat districts by plurality, and the rest by proportional representation; however, the latter are not compensatory, so a party or pre-electoral coalition that wins lots of the district races can be significantly over-represented. (Please see the planting prior to the September, 2005, election for details on this MMM system.)
More from Yomiuri:
Of the 271 candidates the DPJ is fielding in the single-seat constituency race, nearly 200, or about 70 percent, look set to win, while about 40 are considered too close to call.
As for the LDP, it has relatively few safe seats (amazing!), and some of those where it is expected to do well are those in which it is facing the DPJ’s less popular pre-electoral allies (the Social Democratic Party or the NewNew Party Japan, rather than a candidate of the DPJ itself).
As for [LDP ally] New Komeito, eight of its members are running for reelection in the single-seat constituencies, but the party is unlikely to see the entire group returned to office. The party is having a difficult time winning support, especially in Tokyo and Osaka constituencies.
The DPJ could win around 80 of the list-tier seats. That would be 44%. Yet even with a likely ~40% party-list vote, all those mostly two-candidate races in the nominal tier of the MMM system would translate into a huge swing overall.
Interest in the election is high, and the 20% of poll respondents who say they are still undecided is actually a good deal lower than in past elections. (See the Yomiuri link above for details.)
A student shared a link to a site with nice maps. The text there is all in Japanese, but scroll down. All that red on the map indicates single-seat districts likely to be won by the DPJ, while blue is the LDP.
* The LDP lost control of the House of Councilors, the by-no-means weak second chamber, in July 2007. However, the cabinet depends on the exclusive confidence of the first chamber, and the LDP has never been defeated at a general election for this body. It was out of power briefly in the early 1990s when, due to splits (largely over the issue of reform of the electoral system), it failed to win a majority of seats.
If by my laws you walk, and my commands you keep, and observe them,
then I will give-forth your rains in their set-time,
so that the earth gives-forth its yield
and the trees of the field give-forth their fruit.
--Vayikra 26: 3-4