Japan Between 1976 and 1992 Part I
1976 was a politically significant year for Japan A Supreme Court ruling declared the division of constituencies unconstitutional, which penalized the urban electorate to such an extent as to undermine the principle of political equality of citizens; the Lockheed scandal broke out, in which former Prime Minister K. Tanaka was heavily involved, forced to resign from the party; General elections took place in December, in which the Liberal Democratic Party lost an absolute majority for the first time.
This last story, twenty years after the party’s foundation, had no immediate practical consequences, because the recovery of a group of independents allowed the majority to be recomposed. But it brought about the resignation of T. Miki, who was succeeded by T. Fukuda. With Fukuda there was apparently a more classic return to the past, at a time when the decline of the majority party seemed destined to worsen. In fact, the results of the political elections followed a trend that had already emerged in the administrative elections of the major urban agglomerations, where for some time the candidates of the united left (or of a single party of the left) had been able to assert themselves against the moderate exponents. Even in the July 1977 elections for the renewal of half of the House of Councilors,
During 1978, in the liberal-democratic convention, Fukuda resubmitted his candidacy to lead the party, but the first ballots saw M. Ohira in the head, to whom the incumbent prime minister then preferred to give way, withdrawing from the struggle for the primacy.
With Ohira, the general elections of October 1979 marked a liberal-democratic levitation in terms of votes, but with the further loss of a parliamentary seat. Seven months later, the tension that had existed for almost a decade within the majority party was revealed again when some factions of the party refused to vote in favor of Ohira who, as a result, suffered a vote of no confidence (it was the first time that this happened since 1953). Ohira then called new early elections, but died suddenly just ten days before the appointment with the polls.
It is also likely that the excitement of the sudden disappearance of the leader influenced the Japanese voter, allowing the Liberal Democratic Party to reach 47.9% of the votes and 284 seats. Ohira was succeeded by one of his current comrades, Z. Suzuki, a little-known politician, chosen for reasons of continuity and to avoid too lively tensions between the major candidates for the succession.
According to SHOEFRANTICS, Suzuki was therefore the fifth person to reach the political top of the country in less than ten years. But his administration did not present a particularly favorable balance sheet: it was a two-year period characterized by growing factional tensions, by a decline in the yen against the US dollar, by the worsening of economic-trade frictions with the United States and with the European Community..
Suzuki was replaced in October 1982 by Y. Nakasone. In many respects, the last ten-year scan of the Japanese political affair can be started from this moment. Nakasone’s choice brought to power a man in many ways the opposite of his predecessor. In fact, he had been at the top of the local political world for a very long time and was particularly known for his lively even if controversial personality.
A neo-nationalist tendency was identified with Nakasone that embodied the desire to overcome the memory of war responsibilities and the international image of the ” economic giant, dwarf in politics ”. Nakasone, in the specific moment in which he assumed the maximum responsibilities, was somewhat facilitated by the international context: on the one hand, because the second half of the 1970s had seen a weakening of the US commitment in East Asia as a consequence of the conclusion of the Vietnamese conflict ; on the other hand, because the advent of R. Reagan to the US presidency marked the beginning of a phase of recovery of moderate ideology throughout the world.
Internally, Nakasone also appeared to be able to politically exploit the decline of the major opposition forces, after the hopes that had opened around the middle of the previous decade. The Communist Party was affected by the Chinese events and by the conflict between Chinese and Vietnamese Communists regarding the events in Cambodia. The Socialist Party, for its part, was attested in the early 1980s to around 20% of the votes, with less than 100 seats in the Chamber of Deputies. In reality it was affected above all by the continuous tension between its reformist and moderate component (also supported by the major trade unions) and the more radical and ideologically oriented one which did not feel it had to give up its own revolutionary inspiration and the definition of a “ mass party ”.
Already in 1977 he had risen to the presidency of the Socialist Party I. Asukata who, while representing the left, had posed as a renovator open to all currents and more inclined than his predecessor to open a political dialogue with the neo-Buddhists of the Kōmei tō. Asukata was later re-elected twice, but he gave up his office to the more moderate M. Ishibashi on the eve of the general elections that took place at the end of 1983, also because those that had taken place in June for the renewal of half of the Chamber some advisers had marked an advance of the ruling party.