Return to: Search Page or to: Table of Contents Vol. 18, Issue 3

Matthew Carlson, "Financing democracy in Japan: The allocation and consequences of government subsidies to political parties," Party Politics, 18 (May, 2012), 391-408. [Available at http://ppq.sagepub.com/content/vol18/issue3/ ]

First paragraph:
With the passage of the Law for Government Subsidies of Political Parties (Seit o Josei H o) in 1994, Japan joined the ranks of an increasing number of countries that have implemented a system of public assistance for political parties. The new law requires the national government to allocate 250 yen per person times the total population of the country to political parties each year. Japanese political parties have thus received a significant annual sum of more than 30 billion yen ($272 million) to their coffers.1 Many hoped these funds would promote 'the sound development of political activities of political parties', secure 'their legal and fair activities' and encourage party-centred rather than candidate-centred campaigns.2 However, the effects of the subsidy system on Japanese politics are complicated by the strategic responses of parties and politicians, including the successful efforts of entrepreneurial politicians to acquire the funds intended for political parties (Curtis, 1999: 166).

Figures and Tables:
Table 1. Amount of political party subsidies, 1995-2008 (JPY and USD in millions)
Figure 1. Percentage of subsidy to total party income, 1995-2007.
Figure 2. Percentage of subsidy and contributions to total revenues (LDP).
Table 2. Average politicians' total income and percentages from subsidy and contributions (JPY in millions)
Table 3. Subsidy allocation to LDP incumbents and new candidates
Table 4. Multivariate analysis of factors shaping subsidy amounts

Last Paragraph:
A second lesson is the complexity in pinpointing the exact effects of public funds, particularly when there are multiple causes and rules are frequently altered. To add another layer of complexity, the effects of the subsidy and other rule changes are not uniform across and within specific party organizations. This makes it challenging to evaluate the consequences of any subsidy system once it is implemented. Finally, the evidence examined from Japan seems consistent with one of the main conclusions derived from the broader literature on subsidies: they are an important component of party politics; however, their effects tend to be overstated by both advocates and critics. As Pierre and his associates (2000) argue in the case of European countries and the United States, subsidies are seldom a sufficient or a necessary condition for the flow of funds in politics. Reformers should bear these lessons in mind if they adopt or consider a similar system.

Last updated August 2012