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In the 2004 House of Councilors elections, the DPJ won a seat more than the ruling Liberal Democrats, but the LDP still maintained its firm majority in total votes.This was the first time since its inception that the LDP had garnered fewer votes than another party.This move immediately gave the DPJ eight more seats in the House of Councilors.In the 2003 general election the DPJ gained a total of 178 seats. The party's origins lie in the previous Democratic Party of Japan, which was founded in September 1996 by politicians of the centre-right and centre-left with roots in the Liberal Democratic Party and Japan Socialist Party.Following the 2009 election, the DPJ became the ruling party in the House of Representatives, defeating the long-dominant Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and gaining the largest number of seats in both the House of Representatives and the House of Councillors.- the worst defeat for a sitting government in modern Japanese history.This was in marked contrast to the closely contested 1993 general election, the only other time the LDP has lost an election.

Okada resigned the party leadership, fulfilling his campaign promise to do so if the DPJ did not obtain a majority in the Diet.

It is also different from another Democratic Party, which was established in 1947 and dissolved in 1950.

It was a merger of four previously independent parties that were opposed to the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP)—the previous Democratic Party of Japan, the Good Governance Party (民政党, Minseitō), the New Fraternity Party (新党友愛, Shintō-Yūai), and the Democratic Reform Party (民主改革連合, Minshu-Kaikaku-Rengō).

On , soon after and because of increased tensions after the possible sinking of a Korean ship by North Korea, At the July 2010 House of Councillors election, the DPJ lost ten seats and their coalition majority.

Prior to the election Kan raised the issue of an increase to Japan's 5 per cent consumption tax in order to address the country's rising debt.

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