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Removing Boundaries, Losing Connections: Electoral Consequences of Local Government Reform in Japan

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  26 January 2016

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In this article we examine the role of local politicians in affecting national-level election outcomes by focusing on the drastic municipal mergers in Japan that took place in the early 2000s. Specifically, we argue that the political party that relies most extensively on local politicians' efforts for electoral mobilization and monitoring will suffer an electoral slump when municipalities are merged and the number of municipal politicians is swiftly reduced. We empirically show that municipalities with a history of mergers exhibit significantly lower voter turnout and obtain a smaller vote share for the ruling Liberal Democratic Party in national elections when compared to other municipalities without an experience of mergers. This result indicates that municipal politicians are indispensable human resources for LDP candidates running for the national parliament.

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