Focus Shifts to Saitama, Aichi Prefectures after Komeito Ends Tokyo Campaign Deal with LDP

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Komeito Secretary General Keiichi Ishii makes a speech in Soka, Saitama Prefecture.

Saitama and Aichi prefectures are expected to be critical in determining whether the Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner Komeito can join hands in the next lower house election, despite calling off their cooperative efforts in Tokyo.

Komeito decided not to endorse any LDP candidates in Tokyo but has asked the LDP to endorse its candidates in Saitama and Aichi prefectures. Both parties are horse-trading while trying to prevent the split in Tokyo from spreading nationwide.

“The latest issue is limited to Tokyo, and we won’t let it spread to other areas,” Komeito Secretary General Keiichi Ishii said Sunday to supporters during a stump speech in Soka City, Saitama Prefecture. “We’ll maintain a firm Komeito-LDP partnership outside Tokyo.”

Komeito decided Thursday to cease its election cooperation with the LDP in Tokyo, after the largest party refused to allow Komeito to field a candidate in Tokyo Constituency No. 28 in the eastern part of Nerima Ward in the next House of Representatives election.

In his speech, Ishii emphasized that election cooperation would continue in other prefectures, including Saitama Constituency No. 14, where he plans to run.

Saitama prefectural assembly and Komeito member Noriaki Gamo said before Ishii’s address: “Our relationship with the LDP is not bad at all. We’ll join hands with the LDP in Saitama to field a mutually agreed-upon single candidate, and we’ll surely fight by fielding Mr. Ishii in Constituency No. 14.”

Dissatisfaction looms

In light of the planned rezoning of single-seat constituencies in lower house elections, Komeito announced on March 9 that it would field Ishii in Saitama Constituency No. 14, which encompasses Soka and elsewhere. It also said it would field Policy Research Council Deputy Chair Wataru Ito in Aichi Constituency No. 16, which includes Inuyama City.

Ishii was elected in the proportional representation section of the North Kanto block, while Ito was elected in the proportional representation section of the Tokai blocks. The LDP’s prefectural chapters have opposed the announcements, a situation that has also angered Komeito.

Electoral Policy Committee Chair Makoto Nishida said Wednesday at a press conference: “Three months have passed since the announcements. I’ve told the LDP’s Election Strategy Committee Chairperson Hiroshi Moriyama to make a decision as soon as possible. We’ll decide what to do after seeing their response.”

This comment infers that Komeito may not endorse LDP candidates in Saitama and Aichi prefectures— just like in Tokyo — depending on the LDP’s response.

In response, LDP Secretary General Toshimitsu Motegi met Friday with the heads of the Saitama and Aichi prefectural chapters separately to discuss the matter.

Some LDP members from both prefectures support the endorsement of Komeito candidates, saying that the LDP will have to fight tough election battles if Komeito ultimately supports Nippon Ishin (Japan Innovation Party) candidates. They feel it would be wise to focus on winning the election overall.

Secretaries general of the LDP and Komeito were scheduled to meet Tuesday.

An LDP member expressed growing caution, saying: “Even if we endorse Komeito candidates in both Saitama and Aichi prefectures, there is still the issue of Tokyo. If the conflict with Komeito lingers, it’ll inevitably affect our election cooperation nationwide.”