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The Formation of the Liberal Democratic Party

As was described in the preceding chapter, it was during the 10-year period immediately following the end of the Second World War that Japanese struggled in the midst of hardships and momentous change both within and outside of the country to build a firm foundation for the country's independence. At the same time, politics in both the liberal democratic and reformist camps remained in a highly fluid state.

Yet, this turbulent environment also provided many opportunities for politicians and ordinary citizens to experience and learn a great deal. Equipped with this knowledge, both groups came to embrace the idea that only by fostering the development of a vigorous two-party system, consisting of liberal democratic forces joined together for a common purpose and a unified, more reality-based socialist party, would it be possible to establish a firm foundation for healthy parliamentary democracy, stabilize politics, and build a strong national economy and welfare system.

In light of public opinion and sentiments within the liberal democratic camp itself, the movement toward a “conservative alliance” gained momentum beginning around 1953. Then, in November of 1954, the Reform Party joined with the Japan Liberal Party to form the Japan Democratic Party. A meeting between the executive members of the Democratic and Liberal parties in May of 1955 and another in June between Democratic Party leader Hatoyama and Liberal Party leader Ogata further accelerated the movement toward a formal union of liberal democratic forces.

The meeting between Hatoyama and Ogata was of particular historic importance as the two leaders agreed to “unite conservative forces and stabilize politics.”

Once catalyzed in this way, the situation began to develop rapidly. A Policy Committee consisting of members elected from both parties began work on a draft of a new party's prospective “mission,” “characteristics,” and “platform.” In addition, the results from research conducted by a New Party Structure Committee on the basic organizational form that a new party might take were used to formulate an “organizational framework” for a modern political party with broad popular appeal. Included with this were guidelines for party “regulations and principles” and “public relations and advertising” designed to contribute to its democratic administration.

After the core policies and organization of the new party had been established, the Policy Committee and New Party Structure Committee were combined to create a New Party Formation Preparation Committee in October. This body then finalized the party's “inaugural declaration,” platform, policies, and procedures for the election of the party president.

The last remaining issue was that of what to call the new party. After soliciting suggestions from both inside and outside the party, the name “Liberal Democratic Party” (LDP) was finally decided upon as it was thought to best embody the party's basic principles.

Following the completion of these preparations, Acting Party Presidents Ichiro Hatoyama, Taketora Ogata, Banboku Ohno, and Bukichi Miki presided over the LDP's formal inauguration on November 15, 1955. This gala event, held at Chuo University in Kanda, Tokyo, marked the birth of the single largest liberal democratic party in Japan's postwar history. At the time, the new party controlled 298 seats in the House of Representatives (Lower House) and 115 seats in the House of Councillors (Upper House).

The Party's “Inaugural Declaration” begins by stating that -

Politics must serve the public interest. Politics are the means by which public stability and welfare are enhanced at home while national sovereignty is restored and conditions for peace are secured abroad. Fully conscious of these goals and duties, we hereby establish the Liberal Democratic Party and pledge ourselves to work through the popular will to uphold the principles and ideals of democracy.

The Party's basic philosophy is further illuminated by the following passage -
In establishing this Party, our primary political goal is to pursue mainstream parliamentary politics. We therefore reject all forces and ideologies that promote the use of violence, revolution, or dictatorship as political instruments. In addition, we affirm that respect for individual rights and dignity is the most basic premise of social order and adamantly oppose the imposition of dictatorship or class ideology by force.

Additionally, the Party itself is characterized as being (1) a national party, (2) a pacifist party, (3) a genuinely democratic party, (4) a parliamentary party, (5) a progressive party, and (6) a party committed to creating a welfare state.
The Party's platform includes several fundamental precepts -

  • Working from democratic principles, our party is committed to reforming the nation's institutions so as to create a cultured, democratic society.
  • Based upon just, universally-recognized principles of peace and freedom, our party will work to secure the nation's sovereignty through adjustments and corrections to Japan's international relations.
  • With the public's welfare as our chief imperative, our party will formulate and implement comprehensive economic policies designed to foster individual creativity and corporate freedom in order that people's livelihoods can be secured and the construction of a welfare state can be successfully completed.

In this way, the LDP succeeded in making a number of critical contributions to the historic development of postwar democracy in Japan.
One month prior to this, the Socialist Party had managed to bring together its left and right wings. The formation of the LDP, then, heralded the beginning of two-party competition between conservative and reformist forces in Japan. It was widely expected that this change would push politics in a completely new direction.

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