December 10, 2003
New Komeito tactics alarm LDPYoshio Okubo
A little more than a month has passed since the House of
general election, but the election is still a hot topic in Nagatacho, the
nation's political nerve center in Tokyo.
An article in the Dec. 7 issue of Shimbun Akahata, the organ of the Japanese
Communist Party, went as follows:
"The single-seat electoral system combined with proportional
representation contests benefited the two major parties, as well as a smaller
party, New Komeito, which was supported by the lay Buddhist organization Soka
The article also said: "The efforts of New Komeito to win votes in the
proportional representation races could teach us a lesson."
These remarks are part of the JCP's report presented to the 10th meeting of
the party's Central Committee by Chairman Tetsuzo Fuwa last week, titled
"Problems Regarding the Last General Election."
The JCP and New Komeito are on very bad terms, and the newspapers of both
parties frequently snipe at each other.
It is unusual for the JCP to give such a high rating to its archrival's
election tactics, while at the same time criticizing aspects of New Komeito's
Behind this is a strong sense of crisis in the JCP. The party suffered a
major setback in the last general election. Its strength was cut in half in the
New Komeito's showing in spite of the trend in favor of a two-party system
was attributable to the party's success in obtaining support from eligible
voters who usually back the Liberal Democratic Party in the proportional
In the general election, New Komeito strengthened its partnership with the
One New Komeito candidate in Osaka went so far as to include a photo of
himself alongside LDP leaders in his campaign poster.
All over the country, New Komeito called for LDP candidates running in
single-seat constituencies to ask voters to cast ballots for New Komeito
candidates in proportional representation races, in return for New Komeito's
backing of LDP candidates in single-seat electoral district races.
One speech by an LDP candidate running in a single-seat constituency turned
into a gathering that allowed New Komeito officials to address the audience.
Copies of the LDP candidate's campaign booklet and New Komeito's manifesto
election pledges were reportedly handed out to people listening to the speeches.
Given that minor and medium-sized political parties are bound to be at a
disadvantage in single-seat constituency races, the only way they can survive in
a lower house election under the current formula hinges on how they fare in the
proportional representation category.
In the general election, New Komeito adopted the strategy of securing support
from the LDP in the proportional representation races in exchange for votes of
Soka Gakkai members--totaling 20,000 to 30,000 per single-seat electoral
district--for single-seat LDP candidates.
The result was that New Komeito increased its lower house strength
After the election, however, the LDP leadership felt uneasy over the fact
that the LDP and New Komeito in the lower house campaigns were effectively
What would happen if the number of LDP members in single-seat constituency
contests that need New Komeito backing increased?
The result may be that the LDP will have to pay more consideration to the
interests of New Komeito in steering Diet business and key policy affairs in
order to keep New Komeito's cooperation in the future.
In the election, some single-seat LDP candidates had no qualms about calling
for voters to support New Komeito in the proportional representation category,
circumstances quite anomalous in light of the need for the LDP to maintain party
On the basis of this, Secretary General Shinzo Abe and other LDP leaders have
embarked on a plan to reduce the party's dependency on New Komeito in the next
The first decision in line with this plan is that in the selection of
candidates for the next lower house election, those aged 73 or older who were
unsuccessful in single-seat contests in the last election will not be premitted
to run in the next election on the LDP ticket.
It has long been pointed out that many older LDP members, even if defeated in
an election, tend to refuse to be replaced by newcomers, so that young,
competent hopefuls join Minshuto (Democratic Party of Japan) instead.
To rectify the situation, Abe and other LDP leaders are out to establish a
party rule to encourage generational rejuvenation among party members to recruit
New Komeito, for its part, is poised to further strengthen the LDP-New
Komeito cooperation in the House of Councillors election next summer by
obtaining more support from voters leaning toward the LDP.
New Komeito leader Takenori Kanzaki, in a meeting of the party's prefectural
chapter officials from across the country on Saturday, announced that New
Komeito will pursue victories in the next upper house race in all electoral
districts where it fields candidates, as well as garnering 10 million ballots or
more in the proportional representation races.
If New Komeito intensifies its pressure for the LDP to throw its support
behind the party in the proportional representation contests in the coming upper
house election, anti-New Komeito sentiments may grow among LDP members to the
extent of jeopardizing the ruling coalition.
In fact, complaints concerning the lower house election campaign have been
filed by LDP local chapters with the party headquarters over "excesses in
New Komeito requests for our cooperation."
Whether current relations between the LDP and New Komeito change is the key
to the future of the nation's political landscape.
Also noteworthy are moves by the JCP, as indicated by Fuwa's remarks.
Should JCP adopt a strategy modeled after New Komeito in future lower house
elections, the JCP--on the strength of pro-JCP voters, who number 10,000 to
20,000 per single-seat electoral district--might ask Minshuto to support the JCP
in proportional representation races.
What Fuwa really intended when making reference to New Komito's election
tactics as "a good lesson" for the JCP is of interest.
Okubo is political news editor of The Yomiuri Shimbun.