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Hara Takashi (1856—1921)


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Japan's pre-eminent prewar party, also known as Rikken Seiyûkai, founded in 1900. From its earliest days, the Seiyûkai dominated the Diet, controlling more than half the seats in the Lower House. In its origins, the party possessed firm ties with members of the oligarchy which had ruled Japan since the Meiji Restoration of 1868. Its founder and first president Itô Hirobumi (b. 1841, d. 1909) and Saionji Kinmochi (b. 1848, d. 1940) served as Prime Ministers, but they chose to continue along the lines of their predecessors by including few party men in their Cabinets.

During the presidency of Hara Takashi, the Seiyûkai party machine was developed to its full potential. At the time, local patronage in the constituencies guaranteed impressive performance in elections even while the electorate itself was enlarged many times. Its electoral predominance coupled with the economic and social crisis of 1918 propelled the Seiyûkai into office under Hara's leadership. After Hara's assassination, the party became more disunited and suffered a severe electoral reverse in 1924. After that the Seiyûkai alternated with the Minseitô as the party in power. Moreover, factionalism, which had been existent within the organization from its beginnings, increasingly manifested itself in open splits and defections, as some politicians preferred to join the government regardless of which party had formed it. In 1939, Japan's most important political party of the prewar period fragmented, overwhelmed by its chronic factionalism.

Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945).

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