After 54 years of single-party rule (with a hiccup or two, admittedly), the Liberal Democratic Party of Japan has been ousted from power.  The LDP, which is neither liberal nor democratic, now cedes power to the Democratic Party of Japan.  With a 62% majority, the DPJ has no need to form any sort of coalition government and can legislate at will.  But no one really knows  what the DPJ stands for…

I think it’s apt to compare the two Japanese parties with the two Taiwanese ones.  Both parties in Japan support a mostly-public health care system, public pensions for the elderly, and low taxation.  They support capitalism over socialism, and both support somewhat heavy subsidies for farmers.  The Taiwanese parties have almost the same left-right hodgepodge, with Taiwan-China relations being the only real difference between them.  The LDP and the DPJ don’t even have that.

The one difference  between the two, which doesn’t seem too revolutionary, is the role of the bureaucracy in Japan.  The LDP supports very strong career bureaucrats who often tell members of parliament how to vote, rather than vice versa.  The DPJ, on the other hand, wants a greater role for elected officials.  They want a more transparent process with powerful politicians and subordinate civil servants, probably closer to the US system.  Whether or not they can succeed in dismantling the powerful public sector remains to be seen.

On foreign policy, the DPJ alleges it will seek to build closer regional ties with Korea and China, while maintaining strong relations with the US.  These are not mutually exclusive, but this  sounds like a case of trying to be everything for everyone.  I would be very surprised to see any drastic changes with the DPJ in power, but no party needs to be in charge for 54 years.