Soka Gakkai warms to coalition plan

Japan Times/May 12, 1999

Soka Gakkai, the nation's largest lay Buddhist organization and supporter of New Komeito, appeared to welcome on Wednesday New Komeito's move to form a coalition with the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, sources said.

Tetsuzo Fuyushiba, secretary general of New Komeito, met with Isao Nozaki, deputy chairman of Soka Gakkai, in Tokyo to discuss basic policy matters.

Fuyushima briefed Nozaki on the latest talks with LDP officials about cooperating with the ruling party on a new electoral system for the House of Representatives and other matters, the sources said.

Nozaki reportedly told Fuyushiba he understands the situation and asked him to work on reaching an agreement on basic policy issues.

Meanwhile, Ichiro Ozawa, head of the Liberal Party, said that if his party, the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito can agree on basic policy, the three parties should establish an alliance.

"Because we are different parties, we cannot agree on every basic policy beforehand," Ozawa said. "But we should at least have policy agreement."

In a sign the parties may be narrowing their differences, Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi indicated Tuesday he hopes to hold policy talks with an eye toward a larger coalition that would include "participation" by New Komeito. "I'm not sure whether the alliance would take the form of a coalition government," Obuchi said. "But I think it is good for parties and people that recognize (common) basic policy to cooperate."

The LDP, Liberal Party and New Komeito are already cooperating in the Diet on bills to implement the new Japan-U.S. defense cooperation guidelines and reorganization of the nation's financial administration.

Late last week, New Komeito leader Takenori Kanzaki disclosed a plan to hold a convention in July to decide on the party's basic stance for the next Lower House elections and possible cooperation with the LDP.

The LDP-Liberal Party alliance still lacks a majority in the Upper House, but New Komeito's addition to the coalition would secure a government majority.

Ozawa also said differences over security policy are unlikely to be a major issue in forming an alliance with New Komeito.

"I don't know exactly what kind of security policy New Komeito holds, but I don't think it would be a big problem," he said.

The Liberal Party leader, however, said his party cannot accept New Komeito's proposal to change the current single-seat district election system to a multiseat one. "If New Komeito presses on electoral system reform, it would be completely different from our stance," said Ozawa, who is a strong advocate of maintaining the single-seat election system to establish a two-party political system in the future.

Meanwhile, Kanzaki said he hopes to hold policy talks with Obuchi after the party convention in July. "We must first establish our basic policy for the 21st century," he said, "and then begin talks for cooperating with the coalition government."

But Kanzaki affirmed that New Komeito will not seek Cabinet portfolios as it places policy goals, such as social welfare changes, above the prestige of ministerial posts.

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