Electoral Reform and National Security in Japan: From Pork to Foreign Policy

Room 241, Rosenkranz Hall, 115 Prospect Street 
Amy Catalinac – Visiting Assistant Professor of Politics, New York University

A puzzling turnaround in attention to national security among the conservative politicians governing Japan occurred in 1997, which preceded a dramatic transformation in Japanese security policy.  Curiously, this turnaround is not explained by other variables believed to influence Japanese security policy, such as concerns about the strength of the U.S. commitment or the security threat posed by China. Using 7,497 candidate election manifestos, 126,275 voter petitions, public opinion polls, a case study of politicians’ treatment of the North Korean threat, insights from years spent interviewing political actors and observing politicians’ election campaigns, and rigorous analysis of eight alternative hypotheses, I argue that these politicians began paying attention to national security in 1997 because electoral reform in 1994 compelled them to shift their electoral strategies from pork for the district to policies for the nation. By increasing the amount of attention politicians can pay to national security and reducing the costs of making security policy, I make the case that electoral reform was a necessary condition for the recent transformation in Japanese security policy.