Personalized Politics in Japanese and Filipino Elections

Renato S. Velasco


There has been a striking similarity of personalistic campaigning in Japan and in the Philippines despite noticeable differences in their historical and political experiences. It is the basis of this similarity that this study seeks to determine through a description and analysis of the popularity factors and campaign tactics in the two countries’ national elections, the 1986 Japanese ‘Double’ Diet and the 1987 Philippine Congressional elections. These two national elections were chosen because of the landslide victories of the ruling parties in both countries (Liberal Democratic Party or LDC and Lakas ng Bansa or LABAN, respectively), and the conspicuous roles of popular personalities (former prime minister Yasuhiro Nakahone and former president Corazon Aquino, respectively).

Fifty six Japanese and Filipino members of two Houses of Representatives were given survey questionnaires on their opinions of the winning candidates. Personal interviews followed. Results have shown that the personalized popularity electoral factor, although evident in the two national elections, was stronger in the case of the Philippines. Aquino’s role in LABAN’s victory was indisputably recognized and Nakasone’s role in LDP’s victory was somehow qualified. This mirrors the difference in the two countries’ political make-up: a presidential system for the Philippines and a parliamentary set-up for Japan. Furthermore, campaign tactics in the two national elections were similarly candidate-centered and personalistic.

As a conclusion, the prevalence of a patron-client culture would foster a personalistic tradition and in turn candidate-centered campaigning. Personalized campaigning also serves as a logical response to the demands of a uniquely competitive electoral system in Japan and the cadre or leader-centered party system in both countries. Finally, personalistic parliamentarism, leading to candidate-centered campaigning as a strategy for elite hegemony, has left the voters a passive no-better-choice decision rather than a complete adherence to the candidates’ platforms.


Japan; Philippines; Corazon Aquino; Yasuhiro Nakahone; Liberal Democratic Party; Lakas ng Bansa

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