12:30-14:00 Wednesday, September 25, 2013
Chief Representative, New Komeito
公明党 代表 山口 那津男
For some, it is one of the mysteries of Japanese politics: what keeps New Komeito in coalition with the Liberal Democratic Party? Consider their policies. The LDP is determined to revise Japan's 1946 war renouncing constitution. Its Buddhist-backed pacifist partner rejects revision. The LDP wants to switch on Japan's mothballed atomic reactors and sell nuclear technology abroad. Komeito quietly campaigned against nuclear power during an upper house election in July.
Before the lower house election that put them back in office last December, Komeito not only publicly opposed the LDP on these issues, it expressed doubts about Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's key economic plans, including his desire to curtail the Bank of Japan's independence. Komeito does not share Abe's views on history and would also clearly prefer that he did not visit Yasukuni Shrine.
Komeito can be unusually forthright about its role. Last month its leader, Natsuo Yamaguchi, dubbed it "an opposition party within the ruling party." Members of its main support base Soka Gakkai, Japan's largest lay Buddhist organization, sometimes describe the party's role as being a 'brake' on LDP excesses.
Yamaguchi became leader of the party at a low point in its political history, following the coalition government's loss to the Democratic Party of Japan in 2009. Four years later, the coalition is back in business with a mandate for change. But how will the tensions in policy play out in the coming months? Will Komeito continue to play its role as spoiler at the LDP party?
Yamaguchi is a graduate of the University of Tokyo and was a lawyer until he made the move into politics. A veteran Lower House member, he has a reputation for being a consummate and smooth political performer, and for not shirking a political fight.