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Komeito - Clean Government Party

Soka Gakkai was formed in 1930 as an independent lay organization of the Nichiren Shoshu sect of Buddhism espousing the reform of Japanese schools. After World War II, Soka Gakkai became affiliated with the Nichiren Shoshu Buddhist sect. Between 1951 and 1991, Soka Gakkai operated as a lay organization affiliated with the Nichiren Shoshu Buddhist sect. During that period of time, Soka Gakkai grew to have approximately 10 million members and assets over $100 billion. Soka Gakkai's numbers were estimated at 750,000 in 1958, and by some estimates more than 35 million in the late 1980s.

The Komeito (the euphemistic English translation of the Japanese name is Clean Government Party) was an offshoot of the Soka Gakkai. In November 1961 the Soka Gakkai, established the League for Clean Government, which became a regular political party, the Komeito, two years later. The Komeito Clean Government Party (CGP) was established on November 17, 1964, as a successor to the Komei Political League. The party occupied 14 seats in the House of Councilors and about 1,200 seats in local assemblies, including the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly, at the time of its inauguration. In 1967, the Komeito sent members to the House of Representatives for the first time. Candidates on the former Komeito's ticket won 25 seats in the Lower House election that year. With the Lower House victory as a turning point, former Komeito members began to advance into national and local assemblies. The party grew into a major force to be reckoned with in the late 1970s. The number of Komeito members holding Diet and local assembly seats consistently exceeded 3,000. The party consolidated its position in Japanese politics, and played a major role in Japan's political advancement as the third most force after the Liberal Democratic Party and the Japan Socialist Party.

In the 1960s a rising sense of self-confidence, encouraged by twenty years of peace, economic growth, relative political stability, and improvement in social and cultural life, made most Japanese increasingly restless with realities or implications of reliance on others, particularly United States. The continuing erosion of political strength of Liberal Democratic Party, so that its supporters at polls by January 1967 barely exceeded the combined totals of the supporters of the renovationists (counting Komeito as renovationist, in keeping with its posture). Opposition parties, moreover, on foreign policy issues that matter, tended to find more and more common ground in neutrality, opposition to the security pact, and an opening to China.

Japan and China issued a historic joint communique and normalized their diplomatic relations in September 1972. This rapprochement became a turning point in post-World War II Japanese history. The Komeito played a vital part, serving as a crucial "bridge" between the two governments. The Komeito and Soka Gakkai parties have close ties to China and strained relations with Taiwan. In the event of a crisis, they might seek to place constraints on the operation of U.S. forces and the Japan Self-Defense Forces.

Japanese politics had remained within the framework of the so-called "1955 Regime" for a long time. Under this system, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and the Social Democratic Party of Japan (SDPJ), the largest opposition party, repeatedly engaged in fruitless confrontation. In this environment, Komeito pioneered a new political approach based on consensus and people, rather than confrontation and ideology. The Diet "resolution concerning non-nuclear arms and scaling-down of U.S. military bases on Okinawa" was a product of this approach. It put our national policy of three nuclear-free principles on a statutory basis. The former Komeito also grappled squarely with the issue of proper diplomatic actions and insisted that Japan should adopt global peace, rather than peace limited to its own territory, as its goal.

The party's supporters tended to be people who were largely outside the privileged labor union and "salarymen" circles of lifetime employment in large enterprises. The Komeito's programs were rather vague. They emphasized welfare and quality of life issues. In foreign policy, they had dropped their previous opposition to the Japan-United States security treaty and the Self Defense Forces.

Ties between the Komeito and the Soka Gakkai were formally dissolved in 1970, and the image of an "open party" was promoted. But the resignation in 1989 of a Komeito Diet member, Ohashi Toshio, following his criticism of the religious leader Ikeda Daisaku, suggested that the Soka Gakkai's influence over the party remained substantial.

In 1991, after years of tension between Nobuo Abe (also known as Nikken Abe), leader of Nichiren Shoshu, and Daisaku Ikeda, leader of Soka Gakkai, the leaders of Nichiren Shoshu expelled Soka Gakkai members from their sect, and severed all ties between the groups. This action sparked extended litigation between the groups that continues to this day. This litigation reached American shores, as Nichiren Shoshu and Soka Gakkai both had extensive United States assets and membership.

Following the July 1993 House of Representatives election, the Komeito held fifty-one seats in the House of Representatives and joined the Hosokawa coalition. The mass mobilization power of the Sokagakkai, the religious organization with which the Komeito is affiliated, strengthen the Party's electoral prospects of Shinshinto. Sokagakkai funneled large amounts of money into Komeito coffers during the July 1993 general election.

The barrage of Chinese and Korean assertions that the loosening of the restrictions on Japan's military forces forecasts a desire to be militarily assertive, especially when reinforced by the left leaning segments of the media and small, but well-organized political parties such as Komeito, continues to hold sway with the Japanese public. There is a genuine fear among some Japanese that the military, once released from containment, cannot be controlled and will lead Japan back into the depths of war.

The Persian Gulf crisis of 1990-1991 steered the LDP toforge a coalition with the Komeito and the Democratic Socialist Party (DSP) on Japanese participation in UN peacekeeping operations as well as Japanese financial contributionsto Operations Desert Shield and Storm. Both developments weak-ened the political position of the two traditional leftist parties: the SDPJ and the Japan Communist Party.

Komeito made up a substantial portion of Hosokawa's coalition government in 1993. Opposition parties won a landslide victory in the general election held in July 1993. The LDP failed to win a majority of seats in the House of Representatives. The former Komeito joined forces with the Social Democratic Party of Japan, Japan Renewal Party, Japan New Party, Japan Democratic Socialist Party (JDSP), New Party Sakigake, United Social Democratic Party, and Democratic Reform Party later that month, and became a part of the coalition that established the first LDP-free administration in Japan in 38 years. The inauguration of the LDP-free administration by the eight cooperating parties became the biggest political event in Japan's post World War II history, and was said by some to herald the "dawn of Japanese politics."

The eight-party anti-LDP coalition lost control over the government to a new three-way coalition formed by the LDP, SDPJ, and New Party Sakigake in a political coup in late 1994. The new coalition set up a LDP-centered government led by Tomiichi Murayama. On December 10, 1994, the New Frontier Party was established to meet public demand expectations by returning to politics based on "reforms." The new party held up "ceaseless reforms and the realization of responsible politics" as its ideals. The former Komeito held its last national convention on December 5, 1994, and decided to end its 30-year-long history. Former Komeito members inaugurated "Komei" and the "Komei New Party" on the same day. The former party comprised mainly local assembly people, but also included some of the Upper House members. The latter party consisted mostly of Diet members. The "Komei New Party" formed the aforementioned "New Frontier Party (NFP)" jointly with the Japan Renewal Party and Japan Democratic Socialist Party.

Komei and the New Peace Party joined hands and formed "New Komeito" at its inaugural national convention held at Zenrosai Hall in Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, on November 7, 1998. The event marked a return to the old party name about four years after the former Komeito disbanded. The ability of the Buddists to mobilize their voter base and control the votes of their members made New Komeito a small but critical part of the Koizumi Government. The LDP did not maintain a majority in the Japanese Diet, but Koizumi was able to keep his post thanks to the coalition the LDP has with the New Komeito party. Their presence kept the government policy from straying too far right.

Under political pressure from New Komeito, in 1999 the Diet modified the language of the U.S.-Japan Defense Guidelines bills in three significant ways: (1) "situations in areas surrounding Japan" became "situation is which the peace and safety of Japan are gravely threatened;" (2) the ship inspection clause was removed; (3) a new clause was added to require Diet approval before SDF support operations in noncombat zones and search and rescue operations could be carried out. Inability to satisfy Komeitoconcerns led to the postponement in April 2002 of the first year's purchase. Both the F-15 and F-2 aircraft are equipped to receive fuel in flight.

The New Komeito party placed emphasis on enhancing articles concerning human rights -- such as the right of privacy and children's rights -- and maintaining Article 9. It seeks to preserve the "no war"constitution and promote arms reduction. The Komeito concept of security rests on two pillars: maintenance of the Japan-U.S. security pact and preservation of the self-defense capability, limited to safeguarding the integrity of Japanese territory. It does believe that Japan shouldactively engage in peacekeeping operations under the UN Charter.

A joint questionnaire survey of lawmakers in the House of Representatives, conducted by the Yomiuri Shimbun and Professor Jun Iio's office at the National Graduate Institute for PolicyStudies (GRIPS), discovered a substantial difference of views between the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and its coalition partner, the New Komeito party, over basic policies. LDP: 94 percent were in favor of amending Article 9. New Komeito: 33 percent in favor of amending Article 9. In this regard, respondents were asked to answer if they thought the Constitution should be amended so that Japan can participate in collective defense. As a result, 66 percent of the respondents answered "yes." -In the LDP, "yes" reached 90 percent. In the New Komeito, however, three-fourths answered "no".

In the 2009 election campaign the Komei platform insisted that the existence of the Self-Defense Forces and "international contribution" should be added to Article 9 of the Constitution, and proposes that the Research Commission on the Constitution, a parliamentary panel set up in both Houses of the Diet, start its work and initiate nationwide discussions aimed at constitutional revision. The Komei platform called for phased implementation of a tax reform by the late 2010s that includes a consumption tax increase, to secure fiscal resources to make the social services sustainable. The Komei Party's key catchphrase is "We will by all means defend livelihoods."

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Page last modified: 01-08-2012 20:14:24 ZULU