July 28, 2019
Tokyo- Komeito boosted its presence in the House of Councillors in the latest election, but a sense of crisis is building up among party officials as the number of votes it acquired in the proportional representation system fell by more than one million from the previous election.
The officials are worried about a weakening of the once-solid organizational strength of the party, a junior partner of the Liberal democratic Party-led ruling coalition, due chiefly to the aging of its supporters.
In the July 21 Upper House election, all of seven Komeito candidates were elected in constituencies, while the party gained seven seats in the proportional representation bloc. The new seats, totaling 14, is up from 11 seats that were up for re-election and equaled the record high marked in the previous triennial election in 2016.
At a party meeting on Thursday, Natsuo Yamaguchi, chief representative of Komeito, highlighted the record-tying performance, but at the same time ordered party executives to discuss how the party can strengthen its ability to communicate its policy attitudes and measures to the electorate.
Komeito's advance was apparently aided by a low level of voter turnout in the election, which stood at 48.80 pct, slipping below 50 pct for the second time since the end of World War II.
In the proportional representative system, Komeito garnered 6,536,336 votes, hitting the lowest level since the party joined the government coalition with the LDP in 1999. The number fell below seven-million line for the second straight large-scale national election after the 2017 election for the House of Representatives, the all-important lower chamber.
In triennial Upper House elections, Komeito had usually acquired more than 7.5 million votes thanks to scheduled preparations. But the steep drop in the number of votes this time brought into sharper focus the downtrend in voter support for the party since it gained 8,987,620 votes in the 2005 Lower House election.
A Komeito official does not see the drop in voter support as a temporary phenomenon but as a structural problem for the party. "Supporters' campaign activities have dropped as a result of their aging," the official said.
The reduced number of votes for Komeito also seems to reflect supporters' discontent after the party cooperated on LDP policy measures that are not in line with its basic policy stance, under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's firm grip on power. For instance, Komeito, despite its traditional pacifist inclinations, helped the enactment of national security laws, which allow Japan to exercise its right to collective self-defense.
"We need to take (the fall in the number of votes) seriously," a senior Komeito official said. "The number of votes cannot fall by one million solely due to the fall in voter turnout."
It is still uncertain whether Komeito can come up with a good idea for buttressing its strength. Jiji Press
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