A Political History of Japan during the Meiji Era, 1867-1912

By Walter Wallace McLaren | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XIV
THE END OF THE MEIJI ERA

IN May 1908 a General Election was held, the Diet having completed its full term of four years for the second time in succession. Various predictions were made as to the probable fate of the Seiyukai. The Asahi pointed out that the campaign would differ from all previous ones, not only because of the enlarged electorate due to the high taxes and the consequent increased expenses entailed upon the candidates, but also because of the uncertain state of politics, which would render the life of the next Diet insecure. The general feeling was that the outcome would depend upon the size of the party's election fund. Immediately preceding the polling the local Governors issued to the police strict orders to suppress bribery and corruption, and how thoroughly these injunctions were carried out was indicated by the extraordinary number of prosecutions for infraction of the election laws. Nevertheless, the Seiyukai returned from the country with 189 members, a gain of 8 seats, and the Shimpoto with 77, a loss of 12. The result constituted a signal victory for the Seiyukai, for not since 1903 had the party commanded a majority in the Lower House of the Diet.

Under such circumstances it might have been supposed that the Saionji Cabinet would continue long in office, for with the support of the Seiyukai its position seemed secure. Nevertheless, in the first week of July the Ministry resigned, ostensibly because of the Premier's illness. The collapse of the Government

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