Before 1994, Japan elected the lower house of its parliament using an unusual “multimember district” system that forced candidates from each party to run not only against the other party but also against one another. As a result, candidates tended to build ties with relatively small, safe pools of voters, delivering them a stream of targeted building projects, subsidies, and other help that Catalinac terms “pork.” In 1994, the electoral system was changed to one that combined single-member districts and proportional representation, forcing candidates to broaden their appeal to larger constituencies. Ever since, scholars have debated the policy impact. Catalinac uses an innovative computerized analysis of candidates’ election manifestoes to show that after the reform they paid more attention to national security issues than before, and she argues that this helps explain the government’s moves toward a more assertive security policy. She responds resourcefully to possible objections, among them that the manifestoes don’t matter much in Japanese election campaigns and that security policy more likely shifted because of changes in the threat environment. Her contribution will not end the debate, but it offers an interesting new twist.
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