Japanese Studies Seminar Series - Pork to Policy: Electoral Reform and National Security in Japan, 1958-2009

This week's presenter will be Dr Amy L Catalinac, School of International, Political & Strategic Studies. 

What explains the dramatic turnaround in attention to national security by conservative Japanese politicians since 1996?   Noticed by many scholars, this turnaround is almost always attributed to changes in Japan’s external security environment.   But Japan experienced changes in its security environment before 1996, which produced no comparable shifts in attention.   Moreover, the new attention is not focused on the changes that pose the greatest threats to Japan: the rise of China and North Korea’s burgeoning missile and nuclear capabilities.   I argue that this turnaround is best explained by a shift in the electoral strategies of conservative politicians.   I explain why conservative politicians should have ignored national security under the old electoral system, used until 1994, and why they should be paying attention to it under the new, used since 1996.   Applying the statistical topic model latent Dirichlet allocation to a new collection of 7,497 election manifestos produced by all serious candidates competing in the eight House of Representatives elections between 1986 and 2009, I show that the introduction of the new system forced conservative politicians to switch their electoral strategies from pork for the district to policies for the nation, one of which is national security policy.     I argue that this shift in strategy is producing the turnaround in attention to national security, not external events, shifting voter priorities, new candidates, or new candidate preferences.

The Japanese Studies Seminar Series is a fortnightly seminar hosted by the ANU Japan Centre during Friday lunchtimes.  Each fortnight an ANU Japan-related scholar shares their research with the group for discussion.  All are welcome to attend the series and engage with our Japan scholars on their research.

Updated:  27 November 2018/Responsible Officer:  JI Management Group/Page Contact:  Japan Institute