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Changes to Electoral Rules and Party Politicisation in the Hiroshima Prefectural Assembly in the Late 19th and Early 20th Centuries
In 1878, the Ordinance on Local Prefectural Assembly first introduced electoral bodies in Japan, 12 years before the establishment of the Houses of National Diet. The members of the prefectural assemblies are directly elected by local wealthy male citizens.
Before 1878, the Japanese people had not had the experience of voting for and electing government representatives. Therefore, the implementation of the elections led to a number of problems. Thus began a continuous process of improving electoral systems through trial and error and through setting the rules of the elections. The first chapter of this paper describes the changes that were made to the electoral ordinances and rules over a period of 15 years in the 19th century.
In early elections, the person who received the most votes often refused to accept membership in the assembly. Even if he accepted the duty, the elected assembly member often resigned in the middle of his term. Wealthy citizens rejected political duties.
In 1881 and 1882, the Liberal Party and the Progressive Party were organized in Tokyo. Some members of the Hiroshima Prefectural Assembly joined these political parties. These partisans became core members of the assembly because they kept their political posts without resigning in the middle of the term, enabling them to stand for re-election. By the middle of the 1890s, the electoral system had stabilized, and members of the assembly held their positions continuously and performed their duties as politicians.
Party politicisation in the Hiroshima Prefectural Assembly appeared to be progressing, but in fact non-partisanship was more popular. The former lord of Hiroshima-han (domain), Marquis Asano, organised a non-partisan local political body, the Seiyukai, Political Friendship Association. In the 1890s, many partisans joined this new body.
In the 1900s and early 1910s, a national party, the Seiyukai, Constitutional Political Friends Association (different from the non-partisan Political Friendship Association, despite the similar name), tried to establish a majority in the Hiroshima Assembly. To prevent such a majority, independent members and members of minor national political parties got together and organised a non-partisan “reformist club”. These reformist club members kept the majority in the assembly and maintained their non-partisan position, although some of them were members of national political parties. As a result, until 1919, party politicisation had not progressed in Hiroshima to the extent that it had in other prefectures.