Cleaning up politics and revitalizing democracy? A European view of the new system of political finance in Japan
When a package of political reform bills was enacted in Japan in 1994, commentators predicted that Japanese politics would fundamentally change. After a series of corruption scandals, the new legislation tightened the system of legal controls, increased penalties for wrongdoing by politicians and made the flow of money more transparent. One key element of the reform package was the introduction of government subsidies for political parties. These funds were intended to strengthen the role of political parties and, at the same time, to close the gap between voters and politicians. Based on a comparison between the German and Japanese systems of political finance, this paper argues that government subsidies have not brought parties and voters closer together. While the distance between politics and big business in Japan has increased since 1994, change has come from the business side, not as a result of the new regulations. In the long run, the new Japanese political finance system will not bridge the gap between political elites and ordinary citizens.
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