Komeito’s emerging role?

With the special session of the Diet session now in full swing, both the LDP and the DPJ are learning how to function in an unprecedented political environment. Barring the government’s somehow folding and calling an early election — essentially giving up its Lower House supermajority, its one trump card — both parties will have to establish new rules of the game, a modus vivendi that will enable them to cooperate on some legislation even while struggling to win the upper hand in the battle for public support.

Because there is plenty of ground for the two parties to work together. Take, for example, the issue of a monthly child allowance, which was one of the DPJ’s campaign promises in July. The DPJ has finalized its proposal, calling for a monthly child allowance of 26,000 yen until the child completes junior high school, without means testing for parents’ income. Mr. Fukuda, based on his maiden speech in the Diet, surely wouldn’t disagree with a some kind of proposal like this. What would stop the LDP and the DPJ from cooperating on this issue, given that they agree on the principle? They might quibble over money and conditions, but that’s politics.

And so I find remarks from Mr. Kitagawa, Komeito secretary-general, of interest. Mr. Kitagawa suggested that if DPJ legislation is good, “We think it will be good to appeal to the LDP. We want to strive for a flexible stance.” Komeito could be a useful actor, prevailing on both the DPJ and the LDP to come to terms on behalf of good policy. Indeed, after a miserable performance in July’s election, Komeito is suddenly in a good position. After being battered under Mr. Abe, in Mr. Fukuda they have a prime minister who appreciates them and in a tense political environment they may have an important role to play in forging compromises on policy.

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