Amy Catalinac - Associate Professor of Politics, New York University
By comparative standards, the dominance of Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) is highly unusual. The party has formed the government for all but four of the past 67 years. In the majority of Lower House elections held since 1955, the LDP’s seat tally was more than double that of any other party. Its string of election victories is especially surprising in light of an electoral system shift in the 1990s that was predicted to make single-party dominance less likely. A policy-based explanation is similarly implausible: the LDP’s positions are at odds with large segments of Japan’s electorate. In this talk, I argue that features of Japan’s political institutions help LDP incumbents parlay their access to government resources into victories at the ballot box. These features are the ability to discern their vote totals at a small geographic unit within their broader electoral district and influence resource allocations to those same units. This enables LDP politicians to engage in group-based clientelism, in which the amount of resources groups receive is tied to the level of electoral support they provide. These findings open up new lines of inquiry for scholars interested in clientelism, pork-barreling, the electoral strategies of dominant parties, and the form and function of democracy.
Amy Catalinac is an Associate Professor of Politics at New York University. She is a scholar of electoral systems, distributive politics, and contemporary Japanese politics. She earned her Ph.D. at Harvard University, where she was also a postdoctoral fellow at the Program on U.S.-Japan Relations. Her research examines how electoral systems shape politicians’ policy priorities and ideological positions, and how legislators make decisions about the allocation of central government resources. This research has appeared in journals such as the American Political Science Review, Journal of Politics, World Politics and Comparative Political Studies, as well as in Electoral Reform and National Security in Japan (a Cambridge University Press book). Professor Catalinac has spent almost five years in Japan, during which time she observed firsthand the election campaigns of many politicians and conducted interviews with political actors at all levels of government.
The Japanese Politics and the Global Political Economy Project is being funded by the Japan Foundation.