The LDJ has had near-continuous power in Japan since 1955. To Westerners accustomed to one party leading a nation for a decade or two before another one has its turn, this sounds like it would be either a dream come true or a nightmare, depending on whether you like the LDJ's politics. But the LDJ has many factions, differing in their policies and/or traditional supporters, and specific LDJ Prime Ministers have come from various factions, primarily Seiwa, Heisei and Kōchikai. According to Wikipedia, Seiwa (which includes incumbent PM Abe) favours reducing redistributive taxes and labour rights, Heisei is Keynesian, and Kōchikai has a history of facilitating small business loans.

As I see it, there are three possible readings of this, insofar as one can apply Western thinking to this situation:

  1. The LDJ is analogous, in terms of a consistent internal ideology, to any mainstream Western political party; it's just really good at winning elections, for better or worse.
  2. The LDJ is more of an umbrella term which, while not including all parties, includes a number of factions that are functionally parties in their own right, so that a transition in power from one faction to another is as transformative from a policy perspective as when power changes hands in other nations.
  3. The LDJ isn't adequately described by either of the above proposals. On the one hand, the policies of non-LDJ parties are a non-starter, because LDJ factions are united in being unsympathetic to them. On the other hand, factions differ enough that, within the Overton window the LDJ's success circumscribes, there is room for policy variation as power drifts among the factions.

What's the right way to construe the LDJ's structure?

  • This question has a false premise. There is enormous variation in the internal variability between Western countries, and in particular between those with first-the-the-post systems (which favour few but internally diverse parties) and those with proportional systems (which favour many parties, but more internally homogenous). – Peter Taylor Dec 21 '19 at 13:39
  • @PeterTaylor Do you recommend I change the question to compare to something more specific, e.g. the UK, or that I hope someone will post an answer that discusses which of 1-3 is appropriate depending on the nation chosen? – J.G. Dec 21 '19 at 13:41

I am not familiar with Japanese politics. I am familiar with US politics. I am especially familiar with the politics of my local city.

The Democratic party has controlled my city since forever. There are no Republican candidates on my ballot.

This does not mean my city is not small d democratic. The Democratic primaries are hotly contested.

In the US as a whole, there are formal party like factional organizations within both the Democratic and Republican parties. So it would not surprise me too much if the LDJ works in the same way.

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