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Freedom in the World

Freedom in the World 2017



Freedom Status: 

Freedom in the World Scores

(1=Most Free, 7=Least Free)

Quick Facts

Press Freedom Status: 
Net Freedom Status: 

Japan is a parliamentary democracy with a multiparty system. The ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has governed for most of the period since 1955, though it has served two stints in opposition since the 1990s. Political rights and civil liberties are generally well respected. Outstanding challenges include ethnic and gender-based discrimination, claims of unduly close relations between government and the business sector, and politically fraught disagreements over the legacy of the pre-1945 regime and the future of Japan’s military, or Self-Defense Forces.

Key Developments: 
  • The LDP and its junior coalition partner gained ground in July elections for the upper house of parliament, giving them enough seats to pass possible constitutional revisions.
  • Also in July, former defense minister Yuriko Koike was elected as Tokyo’s first female governor, having run as an independent after the LDP endorsed a rival candidate.
  • Press freedom watchdogs reported media self-censorship in response to government complaints about coverage, with three television presenters losing their positions in March due to perceived government pressure.
Executive Summary: 

In July 2016 elections for the House of Councillors, the upper house of Japan’s National Diet, the ruling coalition of the LDP and Kōmeitō won a decisive victory. The opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) had merged in March with the Japan Innovation Party to contest the elections as the new Democratic Party (DP). It also agreed not to compete with three smaller parties in an unsuccessful bid to deny the LDP the two-thirds majority it would need to adopt constitutional amendments.

The government of Prime Minister Shinzō Abe has called for amendments that would loosen constraints on military action by Japan’s Self-Defense Forces, among other revisions. It took no major steps toward such a change during the year, though as part of a cabinet shuffle in August, Abe appointed a hawkish supporter of constitutional revision, Tomomi Inada, to the post of defense minister.

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