Pacifist New Komeito said it will press the conservative Liberal Democratic Party to drop its militaristic policies if the two long-time allies form a coalition government after the Dec. 16 Lower House election.
The LDP is expected to win more than 280 seats in the 480-seat Lower House, while New Komeito will likely gain an additional 30 seats or so, according to an analysis by The Asahi Shimbun.
LDP President Shinzo Abe and New Komeito leader Natsuo Yamaguchi have both said the two parties expect to establish a coalition government again after falling from power in the 2009 Lower House election.
But Yamaguchi has made it clear that his party, backed by the nation’s largest lay Buddhist group Soka Gakkai, cannot accept the nationalistic proposals advocated by Abe.
“The creation of a national defense force that can exercise the right to collective self-defense is not a political issue of the moment,” Yamaguchi told reporters on Dec. 13.
Abe is calling for lifting a ban on the right to collective defense, which would enable Japan to launch a counterattack if the United States is attacked. He also wants to upgrade the status of the Self-Defense Forces to a national defense force.
Abe on Dec. 14 repeated his criticism against the war-renouncing Constitution, calling it “piddling” and “shameful.”
Soka Gakkai has conveyed its concerns about the LDP’s rightward shift to New Komeito, party sources said.
Using a baseball metaphor, Yamaguchi also advised Abe to avoid being influenced by the Japan Restoration Party, led by right-wing hawk Shintaro Ishihara.
Abe will “hit a foul ball if he is drawn ever further to the right by the Japan Restoration Party,” Yamaguchi said in a speech on Dec. 12.
New Komeito fears the LDP might partner with the Japan Restoration Party, which is expected to win more than 40 seats.
“Ishihara has made one outrageous remark after another,” Yamaguchi said in a speech Dec. 14. “Does he believe that Japan should go nuclear? We can never allow such a proposition.”
Ishihara has said Japan should simulate the possession of nuclear weapons as a deterrent. He also blamed the Constitution’s war-renouncing Article 9 for blocking efforts to rescue Japanese nationals abducted by North Korea.
A coalition between the LDP and New Komeito would not have a majority of seats in the Upper House.
Abe told a television program on Dec. 13 that the coalition would team up with other parties in the Upper House, depending on policy issues.
But the Japan Restoration Party will not likely become a coalition partner, at least in the near future.
“We will charge ahead with New Komeito until an Upper House election next summer,” a senior LDP official said. “We will not work with the Japan Restoration Party, which has few seats in the Upper House.”
Ishihara indicated that a coalition with the LDP might be in the cards on Dec. 4, when the official campaigning started.
But his strategy apparently changed after surveys pointed to an overwhelming victory by the LDP in the election.
Ishihara told a television program on Dec. 13 that he would work with the LDP on some issues if merited.
Toru Hashimoto, acting leader of the Japan Restoration Party, sharply criticized the LDP in a speech on Dec. 14, signaling a widening gap between the two parties.
“Do you want to return the LDP to power only after three years?” he asked. “If the LDP is reborn, I can understand it. But you will only see lawmakers you rejected three years ago regain their seats.”
The Japan Restoration Party might choose to work with other parties to weaken the LDP’s power.
“It could be interesting if opposition parties join hands in the Upper House election,” an aide to Ishihara said.
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