Japan’s First Experiment with Democracy, 1868–1940
On July 18, 1993, the New York Times published an editorial on the Japanese elections of the previous day. Entitled “The Dawn of a Democratic Japan,” the editorial observed that finally in the summer of 1993 Japanese voters “face real choices … Affluent, educated and well traveled, Japanese society was revealed as more complex and sophisticated than even some of its professional interpreters imagined … This election is likely to mark only the first stage of a long transition between the one-party politics of the past and a more democratic future.”1 In fact, the Times editorial writers were three-quarters of a century late. The “dawn” of democracy in Japan broke, not in 1993, but in the first third of the twentieth century when Japan had already developed a workable two-party system.
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