Dynamic approaches to government formation and the generic instability of decisive structures in Japan

Michael Laver, Junko Kato

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    This paper relaxes the "party as unitary actor" assumption that characteristics much theoretical work on party competition and government formation. It first sketches some of the theoretical implications of assuming that legislators are free to defect from parties of which they are members, and to join other parties that might be willing to accept them. This leads to a dynamic legislative party system that is quite distinct from the type of party system assumed by most models, which remains essentially static between elections. Working from "office-seeking" assumptions about the motivations of legislators that seem very plausible in the Japanese case, it shows that such a dynamic party system is likely to be unstable, since there are generic gains to be derived from the fission and fusion of parties. The paper then moves on to explore the Japanese case in these terms. The Japanese party system is self-evidently dynamic and characterised by a high degree of flux, with legislative parties regularly splitting and fusing between elections. The evidence suggests that large parties that pass a certain size threshold can be attractors in the dynamic system, both offering benefits to and receiving them from defectors from other parties. In this way, a "near-majority" party can pass the majority threshold between elections, as happened with the Japanese LDP.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)509-527
    Number of pages19
    JournalElectoral Studies
    Issue number4
    StatePublished - 2001


    • Bargaining power
    • Dynamic models
    • Japan
    • Party factions
    • Party splits

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Political Science and International Relations


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