There will be an election for members of Japan’s lower house this weekend. But the consensus of informed observers is that once the dust has settled, not much will have changed. The two parties that constitute at present the ruling coalition (the Liberal Democratic Party and the Komeito) will still together command a majority.
On Sept 29, Fumio Kishida defeated Taro Kono in a runoff vote and so became the leader of the LDP, the dominant party in the ruling coalition. Days later, he became prime minister, replacing the outgoing PM Yoshihide Suga.
The LDP-Komeito coalition goes back to the 1990s. It has been the government since 2012. The LDP needed a coalition partner. Komeito needed to live down its relationship with a conservative religious group called Soka Gakkai (“value-creation society”). Not only are many Japanese wary of Soka Gakkai, but Article 20 of the Constitution says that “no religious organization shall receive any privileges from the State, nor exercise any political authority.” For the purpose of self-preservation, Komeito had to distance itself from its origins.
Its alliance with the LDP was a way of achieving this.
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The alliance between the LDP and Komeito has held over time, and it remains the governing coalition. But tensions between the two parties have increased of late, and Komeito is unlikely to accept its ‘junior partner’ status docilely and forever.