A comparison of recent Thai and Japanese politics presents a puzzle. Both nations undertook similar electoral reforms at about the same time, but the results have been dramatically different. Thai leaders are party-oriented and have shifted away from the pork-barrel politics of the past. Japanese leaders and members of parliament remain candidate-oriented and continue Japan's pork-barrel policies. We explain these divergent outcomes by analyzing the different causes of and politics surrounding the electoral reform efforts in both countries. Our findings join with the growing literature that questions the one-way causal effects that are usually purported to flow from institutional changes. Rather, we argue that new institutions, such as new election systems, can be as much a result of political changes as a cause of those same changes.