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- What is New Komeito's prime political tenet?
- From the time it was founded as Komeito (Clean Government Party) in 1964, the party has consistently worked to represent the interests of a significant segment of underrepresented citizens. For most of the postwar period, Japanese politics was dominated by two blocs that essentially reflected the ideological divisions of the Cold War: the Liberal Democratic Party comprised of conservatives on the right and the now-renamed Socialist Party of Japan of the left. The Liberal Democrats were backed by powerful lobbies, including agricultural cooperatives, the medical establishment and large corporations, while the Socialists drew support from organized labor. But that schism left a large number of citizens with little or no voice in the democratic process. Owners and employees of small, non-union businesses—which constitute over 70 percent of Japan's industrial sector to this day—as well as the elderly, women, and other underprivileged members of society belonged to this segment. Komeito was established on their behalf. Over the years, our party has been instrumental to the implementation of legislation cracking down on political corruption, while promoting peace, social justice and welfare, education, and environmental protection—all which demonstrate our ongoing commitment to our party's prime directive and founding principle.
- How are the executive members of New Komeito chosen?
- Normally, candidates within the party seek election as Chief Representative, who is then elected by delegates attending the National Convention that is held every two years. Under New Komeito's Articles of Rules and Regulations (ARR), the chief representative names the Secretary General, who serves as the party's chief operating officer. Together, the three positions represent the highest executive leadership of the party. All other positions, including the Chairs of the Policy Research Council and other key committees, are deliberated on and determined by NCR vote.
The selection process for situations considered extraordinary is also stipulated under the party's ARR. For instance, in 2009, then Chief Representative Akihiro Ota resigned from his post, accepting sole responsibility for a serious setback in the House of Representatives election held that year. Given the time constraints, an emergency session of the National Conference of Representatives (NCR) was held. Under Articles 20 and 27, the Executive Secretariat endorsed Natsuo Yamaguchi as successor to Ota. Yamaguchi's choice was then approved by the NCR delegates. In addition, Article 23 was revised to allow the new chief representative to select at his or her discretion the senior NCR and party positions. Yamaguchi chose Ota as NCR chair, former Secretary General Kazuo Kitagawa as deputy chair, and Yoshihisa Inoue as Secretary General, which the Conference endorsed. Yamaguchi also selected Tetsuo Saito to chair the Policy Research Council. Saito's appointment was approved by the Executive Secretariat following the conclusion of the NCR.
- How many seats does New Komeito have in the Diet, or the bicameral Japanese parliament, today?
- As of September 2012, there are 40 New Komeito legislators serving in the Diet, with 21 members belonging to the House of Representatives and 19seats in the House of Councilors.
- How does New Komeito decide policy?
- The primary decision-making apparatus of the policies and initiatives adopted by New Komeito is the Policy Research Council. The Council has more than ten departments reporting to it, each corresponding to a government ministry or agency and responsible for specific policy areas, including finance, social security, and foreign relations and national security. It is also served by a dozen or so subcommittees, numerous policy assessment task forces, and various “project teams.” A project team assesses and formulates policy on trans-agency issues that lie beyond the scope of the departmental and subcommittee framework. Hearings are conducted at every level of the Policy Research Council, providing New Komeito legislators the opportunity to exchanges views with scholars, government officials, field experts and private citizens that are invited to share their expertise.
An equally effective tool in the party's policy-formulation process is its network of nearly 3,000 New Komeito lawmakers serving in municipal and prefectural assemblies across the country. This network acts as a vital interface linking New Komeito and its national parliamentarians to local constituents and communities, providing outlet to the problems, perspectives and policy suggestions of ordinary citizens so that these may be better reflected in the party's national agenda. In addition, party members throughout Japan and local New Komeito legislators play a pivotal role in policy formulation, as their needs and suggestions are fed back to the party leadership through organizational channels at the local and national levels.
New Komeito has also taken an active interest in the needs and rights of all people in our country, regardless of nationality. Foreign residents living in Japan have found New Komeito receptive to their input and have responded to issues relevant to them on local and national levels in order to improve their quality of life.
- How is New Komeito funded?
- In addition to the Political Contribution Control Law, New Komeito's Articles of Rules and Regulations places strict limits on the sources and amount of political contributions that the party may accept to finance its activities. The three approved means of funding are: 1) private donations (capped at 1.5 million yen per individual donor per year); subscription income generated from the Komei Shimbun, the party organ newspaper; and a government subsidy allocated to all state-sanctioned political parties. A government-audited financial report is released each year at one of two major meetings, the National Convention or National Conference of Representatives.
- What is the relationship between New Komeito and the Soka Gakkai?
- The Soka Gakkai is a lay Buddhist organization established in 1930 that was among the few religious groups in Japan persecuted for its pacifist and religious beliefs by the militarist regime during World War II. In the postwar years, the Soka Gakkai underwent dramatic growth as its Buddhist principles of peace and individual empowerment attracted millions of displaced and underprivileged Japanese. The lay Buddhist group founded the original Komeito in 1964 so that a substantial segment of underrepresented citizens would have a viable means to political expression.
With its current membership in Japan of some eight million households, the Soka Gakkai constitutes the largest single support group of New Komeito. As do other political parties and their major constituencies in Japan, the Soka Gakkai and New Komeito periodically hold briefings to debate and discuss policy issues. New Komeito has never lobbied for or introduced legislation that provides the Soka Gakkai with any special favor or privilege.