Politics and International Relations
New parties have entered the competition in Japan and gained parliamentary seats in every general election since 2005. they had a significant impact of splitting the opposition vote and undermining the second largest party, the DPJ, which lead to its de facto disintegration in 2017 and reinstatement of one-party dominance in Japan. Most observers deemed these newcomers to be a manifestation of political opportunism pursuing purely electoral purposes by combining personal popularity of their leaders with populist or regional appeals. Yet, there is very little understanding of how these challengers behaved and what impact they had on the system beyond the elections.
I examine the role these newcomers played in the legislature, how they interacted with larger counterparts and positioned themselves within the major dimensions of conflict structuring parliamentary activities. In order to fulfil this task, I conduct quantitative text analysis of a newly assembled dataset of the speeches made in the Japanese House of Representatives in 2005-2016. The analysis allows to shed light on the nature of Japanese new challengers and to question some of the common perceptions about them, including their extremity and distinctiveness from the traditional opposition. It also suggests how the institutional environment and MPs’ strategic interests could affect these parties’ fortunes in the long-term and stimulate further party system change.