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Takashi Arimoto

【#812】PM Suga Should Reconsider Relations with Junior Partner Komeito

Takashi Arimoto / 2021.07.07 (Wed)

July 5, 2021

In the July 4 Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly election that attracted attention as a harbinger of the next general House of Representatives election coming this autumn, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its junior coalition partner Komeito party failed to win a combined majority seats of 64 in the assembly. The LDP recovered from a historic defeat in the Tokyo assembly election four years ago but fell short of increasing its seats satisfactorily due to strong opinions for cancelling or postponing the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics and confusion involving novel coronavirus vaccination.

Since September 2020 when Yoshihide Suga succeeded Shinzo Abe as prime minister and president of the LDP, the party has failed to win consecutive elections including three national byelections one of which the party lost by default and Chiba and Shizuoka gubernatorial elections where LDP-recommended candidates were defeated. The unfavorable trend continued into the Tokyo assembly election. Giving too much consideration to Komeito, the LDP not only gave up on adopting a resolution to denounce China’s serious human rights abuse against Uyghurs and others at the last ordinary parliamentary session but also adopted conspicuously negative attitudes toward the acquisition of capabilities to strike enemy bases and the utilization of nuclear power plants. I question the LDP’s reasoning of keeping coalition with Komeito.

LDP losing its momentum

The LDP had earlier been expected to regain more than 50 seats in the Tokyo assembly. Due to novel coronavirus vaccine supply shortages, however, it lost some voters to the Tokyoite First party founded four years ago by Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike named after Donald Trump’s “America First”, according to a senior official at the LDP’s Tokyo chapter. While a LGBT bill to promote understanding about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and a bill for an optional separate surname system for married couples divided the LDP, it shelved the human rights resolution against China and a revision to the Immigration Control Act supported by the conservatives. “Due to these developments, the LDP failed to attract its power base” the official said angrily. “Such situation had never been for the LDP.”

Komeito Vice President Kazuo Kitagawa attributed the shelving of the anti-China resolution to the LDP’s failure to build internal consensus. In a contribution to the August issue of Monthly Magazine SEIRON, however, LDP House of Representatives member Takashi Nagao, who sought to have the resolution adopted, commented that the resolution was shelved as LDP leaders gave consideration to Komeito. Nagao criticized Komeito President Natsuo Yamaguchi as “putting the brakes on the resolution most.”

Despite discontent with Komeito among the LDP lawmakers, Prime Minister Suga in June decided to endorse nine Komeito candidates for single-seat constituencies in the next House of Representatives election. Although such decision is usually made after the dissolution of the House, Suga moved up the procedure, expecting Komeito’s cooperation in the Tokyo assembly and Lower House elections. Nevertheless, the number of Tokyo assembly seats the LDP won this time was only 33, less than 34 obtained by the opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan and the Japanese Communist Party combined that coordinated candidates to avoid their competition in some constituencies, although the LDP’s number rose from 25 in the previous Tokyo assembly election. Meanwhile, all Komeito candidates won in the latest election.

Stalled efforts to address key issues

In 1999 when the ruling LDP lacked a majority in the House of Councillors, then Prime Minister and LDP leader Keizo Obuchi decided to form a coalition government with Komeito to secure the passage of key bills crucial for his cabinet. Under the Suga administration, however, the LDP has given priority to election cooperation with Komeito and excessive consideration to the coalition partner, setting aside efforts to address national security, energy issues including how to deal with nuclear power plants and human rights problems.

The time has come for the LDP to reconsider its dependence on Komeito and make full efforts to tackle these urgent, important issues. If not, the LDP would lose support further to the advantage of a hypothetical “Constitutional Communist Party” to the disadvantage of Japan.

Takashi Arimoto is publisher of Monthly Magazine SEIRON at the Sankei Shimbun newspaper.