As of Aug. 1, Natsuo Yamaguchi (65) has served as chief representative of Komeito for 2,885 days, as many as Takenori Kanzaki (74), the longest-serving leader of the New Komeito Party, which was formed [as a result of a merger between the historic Komeito party and the New Peace Party] in 1998. Yamaguchi became party leader when Komeito fell from power with the coalition government’s defeat in the 2009 Lower House election. As chief representative, Yamaguchi has worked to rebuild Komeito’s strength. Tasks lying before Yamaguchi include responding to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s constitutional amendment proposals.
Yamaguchi is now serving his fifth term as party leader. In the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly election in July, the party succeeded in having all its candidates elected for the seventh consecutive time thanks to Yamaguchi’s popularity among his support base of Soka Gakkai. Many in the Komeito speak highly of him although a middle-echelon party member commented, “Yamaguchi obstinately sticks to his own opinions and lacks flexibility in some ways.”
The task that lies immediately before Yamaguchi is repairing the relationship with the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). The LDP suffered a historic loss in the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly election after Komeito engaged in electoral cooperation with Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike’s Tomin First no Kai (Tokyoites First) in the race. On July 31, Yamaguchi told reporters after his meeting with the prime minister at the Prime Minister’s Office [Kantei]: “It is very important that our two parties together address domestic and international issues.”