Parliamentary Chamber: Shugiin


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Dates of elections / renewal (from/to):

  20 October 1996

Purpose of elections:

  Elections were held for all the seats in the House of Representatives following premature dissolution of this body on 27 September 1996. General Representatives elections had previously taken place in July 1993.

Background and outcome of elections:

  General elections for the House of Representatives were not normally due until July 1997. But on 27 September 1996, Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto (Liberal Democratic Party - LDP) dissolved Parliament and the polling date was set. This move to call premature elections had been widely expected , as the Prime Minister - in office since January 1996 - was riding a crest of popularity and, among other things, a controversial sales hike targeted for April 1997 was still on the horizon.

The October poll was the first to be held under a new, mixed (simple majority and proportional representation) electoral system for the reduced (from 511 to 500 seats) House and new campaign finance disclosure laws. Primary opposition to the conservative LDP - the ruling party for 38 years until 1993 - came from the right-wing New Frontier Party (NFP) led by Ichiro Ozawa, the newly founded Democratic Party which had been formed by defectors of the LDP's former coalition partners (Social Democrats and Sakigake party) and the Communist Party of Japan. Campaign issues focused on administrative reform, deregulation of the economy, lessening the power of bureaucrats, and the above-mentioned consumption tax (due to increase from 3% to 5%). The pro-business LDP stressed that Japan was pulling out of its economic slump while NFP promised to delay the tax hike and called for transformation of the economy and politics free of the corruption scandals which had plagued its main rival. Altogether a record 1503 candidates (including 153 women) vied for the 500 seats. The election campaign formally began on 8 October.

Polling day saw the lowest voter turnout (short of 60%) in years. Results gave a major victory for the LDP, which fell just 12 seats short of an absolute House majority. In contrast, the Socialists, led by Ms. Takako Doi, retained only half their seats and NFP lost four. In this context, it was expected that the LDP would easily form a new ruling coalition. However, this proved more difficult than anticipated and Mr. Hashimoto was ultimately re-elected Prime Minister on 7 November at the head of a minority Cabinet.

Round no 1 (20 October 1996): Elections results  
Voters 59% (approx.)

Round no 1: Distribution of votes  
Political Group Votes Proportional % Proportional Votes Majority % Majority
Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) 18,205,955 32.76 21,836,091 38.63
New Frontier Party (NFP) 15,580,053 28.04 15,812,320 27.97
Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) 8,949,190 16.10 6,001,666 10,10
Japan Communist Party (JCP) 7,268,743 13.08 7,096,765 12.55
Social Democratic Party (SDPJ) 3,547,244 6.38 1,240,649 2.19
New Party Sakigake (NPS) 582,093 1.05 727,644 1.29
Democratic Reform Party (DRP) 18,844 0.03 149,357 0.26
Independents - - 2,508,810 4.44

Round no 1: Distribution of seats  
Political Group Total Proportional Majority Gain/Loss
Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) 239 70 169 +28
New Frontier Party (NFP) 156 60 96 -4
Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) 52 35 17 +52
Japan Communist Party (JCP) 26 24 2 +11
Social Democratic Party (SDPJ) 15 11 4 -15
New Party Sakigake (NPS) 2 0 2 -7
Democratic Reform Party (DRP) 1 0 1 -1
Independents 9 n.a. n.a. -1

  11 seats less than at previous elections

Distribution of seats according to sex:  
Men: 477
Women: 23

Distribution of seats according to age:  
21-30 years 1
31-40 years 53
41-50 years 123
51-60 years 167
61-70 years 121
Over 70 years 35

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Copyright 1996 Inter-Parliamentary Union