Early-Career Scholar Forum

Reexamining Ruling Party Leadership Elections in Japan: A Historical Case

Friday, 1 October 2021 | 12:15 - 13:00 (JST)
Zoom Meeting
  • Taro Tsuda Assistant Professor, College of Foreign Studies, Kansai Gaidai University
  • Kenneth Mori MCELWAIN Professor, Institute of Social Science, The University of Tokyo

The election of the Liberal Democratic Party’s top leader (sōsai or president) is one of the most important rituals in contemporary Japanese politics. Since its founding in 1955, the LDP has been Japan’s dominant political party and under the country’s parliamentary system, the head of the majority party in the National Diet almost inevitably doubles as the prime minister. In characterizing LDP leadership elections, analysts have often focused on the role of money, factions, and backroom deals in what are essentially elite intraparty contests. Policy goals or ideological affirmations expressed during these events tend to be seen as lip service done to give candidacies a veneer of higher public purpose. To what extent is this true? In this paper he reassesses LDP leadership elections, focusing on the election of 1964. This case involved standard machinations by party bosses and their factions but was also heralded by some as centered on policies and programs to an unprecedented level. After analyzing how this contest was evaluated by prominent political participants and observers, he will examine the media coverage at the time and available information about public opinion. This study will carefully consider the conventions and rituals of such party leadership elections, also aiming to draw connections to contemporary Japanese politics, in which the LDP remains very much in charge.


Taro Tsuda is an assistant professor in the College of Foreign Studies at Kansai Gaidai University, where he teaches courses on international relations, international history, and Asian studies. His research focuses on contemporary Japanese political history. Currently he is working on a book project examining the life and career of prime minister Sato Eisaku and his role in contributing to the Liberal Democratic Party’s long-term rule. Taro received a Ph.D. in History and East Asian Languages in 2019 in Harvard University’s Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations.