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Committing to the party : the costs of governance in East Asian democracies

  • Author(s): Nemoto, Kuniaki;
  • et al.

This dissertation explores party discipline and its policy consequences in two East Asian democracies: Japan and South Korea. Despite personalistic electoral competition, ideological diversity inside the ruling parties, frequent party splits and mergers and switching, and intraparty factional struggles, the leadership in the two countries has been able to maintain the high levels of party unity inside the legislatures and achieve collective goods of stable rule and legislation. In order to solve this puzzling phenomenon, I develop a theory to argue that, in order to achieve high productivity in the legislature, the leadership in the two countries strategically distributes office perks, or various types of privileges available in the government or the party: cabinet minister posts, heads of state-owned corporations and agencies, and pork subsidies. I further argue that the contrasting patterns of allocation of office perks following from the constitutional difference - parliamentarism versus presidentialism - cause divergent consequences in party unity. In order to support this theoretical claim, I utilize original datasets on legislators' roll call votes on the legislative floors and on fiscal spending in Japan and South Korea. First, data on roll call votes confirm that access to office perks is a significant factor in maintaining party unity: in Japan, when the leadership broke down the existing norm to sustain party unity, a group of backbenchers defected; and in Korea, ruling party members affiliated with the president tend to show higher unity, but such unity tends to decrease over time. Second, analysis at fiscal spending shows that pork is strategically used by the leadership to maintain party unity: in Japan, when the leadership incorporates intra- party factions into the cabinet, upward pressures on pork- related budget items are found; and in Korea, the president greases the wheels by allocating more money to presidential supporters when the ruling party has a majority in the legislature.

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