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Column: Komeito heavily relies on Deputy Chief Kitagawa

  • 2015-03-20 15:00:00
  • , Nikkei
  • Translation

(Nikkei: March 20, 2015 – p. 4)

 

 In a room at the National Diet Library at noon on March 4, Kazuo Kitagawa, the vice representative of the New Komeito party, said to Liberal Democratic Party Vice President Masahiko Komura: “I hope the three principles will be reflected in security legislation at any cost.”

 

 The three principles are (1) legitimacy under international law; (2) public understanding and democratic rule [in the other country]; and (3) securing the safety of Self-Defense Forces personnel. These are Komeito’s conditions for the overseas deployment of SDF members. As Kitagawa brought up these conditions during a meeting between the LDP and Komeito on Feb. 27, they are called “Kitagawa’s three principles.” The LDP took a stance of respecting Komeito, which created momentum toward an agreement between the two ruling parties.

 

 In the LDP-Komeito talks, which were started in February, the focus was on how many Komeito-proposed measures to prevent the overseas deployment of SDF personnel would be included in the legislation. On behalf of Komeito, Kitagawa alone undertook the negotiations with the LDP.

 

 Kitagawa has been playing the role of coordinator with the LDP on such key policies as the security legislation and the issue of reduced tax rates, which are Komeito’s lifelines. He is willing to argue heatedly with his LDP counterpart. Every time confrontation intensified between the LDP and Komeito, Kitagawa assumed an even larger presence. He takes pride in himself, saying, “There is no other way but for me to handle the discussion at the end.”

 

 A senior Komeito member explained the reason for Kitagawa’s becoming the solo negotiator, saying, “As he is the only incumbent member who served as the party’s secretary general, he has influence over party members. Since he is a lawyer-turned lawmaker, he can negotiate with senior LDP officials without flinching.” Some also say that Kitagawa is making the most of his unfettered position as vice representative.

 

 In November 2014 Kitagawa agreed with LDP Research Commission on the Tax System Chairman Takeshi Noda on the inclusion of language that a reduced tax rate for daily necessities will be incorporated from fiscal 2017″ as a plank in the ruling parties’ platform for the lower house election held late last year. Not missing the timing of the postponement of the implementation of the 10% consumption tax rate to “April 2017,” he succeeded in setting the timing of introducing the reduced tax rate system, changing the previous agreement that “the reduced tax rate would be introduced at a time when the consumption tax rate would be increased to 10%.” Many Komeito members think that “unless the negotiator is Kitagawa, Komeito would have accepted the LDP’s condition ‘when consumption tax is raised to 10%.'”

 

 A senior Komeito member said, “It is an urgent task for the party to nurture Kitagawa.” Of the 35 Lower House members belonging to Komeito, 40% are junior lawmakers who are now serving their second terms in the Diet. The number of senior members who have been buffeted between having to make actual political judgments and pressure from the Soka Gakkai religious sect, Komeito’s chief supporter, has decreased. Under such circumstances, the political presence of Kitagawa has grown larger.

 

 After the conclusion of the security legislation, there is a possibility that debate on constitutional amendment will continue with an eye on the period after the House of Councillors election in the summer of 2016. As it stands, the number of opportunities for Kitagawa, chairman of the party’s research council on the Constitution, to play the role of the party’s negotiator will likely increase. Komeito will continue to rely on Kitagawa.

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