Cultivate future leaders, fulfill responsibility as ruling coalition party

The incumbent Komeito leader had been widely expected to step down from his post but, unusually, ended up staying on. He will likely be urged to nurture younger party members and open the path forward for the party.

Natsuo Yamaguchi’s reelection to his eighth term as Komeito leader was approved at a party convention. Keiichi Ishii was reappointed as Komeito’s secretary general, while Yosuke Takagi, head of the party’s election campaign commission, was picked as the party’s policy chief.

Yamaguchi said, “I will fight with all my might to maximize the power of the party.” Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who was invited to the convention as a guest, said, “Let’s overcome national crises together.”

Since their coalition government was first launched in 1999, the Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito have made efforts to build consensus through repeated discussions, even though they have different points of view. Regarding security legislation, the ruling parties paved the way for the nation to exercise a limited right to collective self-defense, after more than half a year of discussions.

It is laudable that the two parties found a realistic point of agreement after discussing the matter tenaciously. It is important that the parties continue to reflect a broad range of public opinions in policies and seek political stability.

Yamaguchi became Komeito’s leader after his predecessor was defeated in a 2009 House of Representatives election. Since then, he has held the top post for 13 years, and it was widely thought that he would leave it at this convention.

However, the situation changed after this summer’s House of Councillors election. Komeito garnered only 6.18 million votes in the proportional representation segment of the election, which was 930,000 fewer than it had won in that segment of last year’s lower house election. In national elections held in recent years, Komeito was unable to achieve its target of winning 8 million votes in the proportional representation segment.

Among members of Soka Gakkai, a key support group for the party, calls to back the well-known Yamaguchi spread amid growing concerns over the party’s prospects for the unified local elections next spring.

Despite poor results in the latest upper house election, Komeito had no choice but to leave its party management to the current leader, an apparent indication of the party’s plight. Soka Gakkai has seen the aging of its members, and its organizational strength has shown signs of decline. Developing a new support base is a grave task for Yamaguchi.

Yamaguchi must also hasten to cultivate the next generation of party members through efforts such as actively letting mid-ranking and younger lawmakers debate issues in the Diet.

Toward the end of the year, the focus will be on discussions on security policy between the ruling parties.

While the LDP calls for the nation to possess so-called counterstrike capabilities, some Komeito members are cautious about this move. To enhance deterrence, it is indispensable to possess counterstrike capabilities. It is hoped that constructive discussions will be held in light of the severe security environment.

Recently, Komeito has been hit by a series of scandals involving its members. Former lower house member Kiyohiko Toyama, who had been regarded as a candidate for Komeito’s top brass, has been convicted of violating the Money Lending Business Law. Sexual harassment allegedly conducted by an upper house member of the party was also reported. Yamaguchi should enforce strict discipline of party members.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 26, 2022)