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Thursday, June 15, 2000

ELECTION 2000: PARTY LINE

Stable coalition key for economy, Kanzaki says


Staff writer

New Komeito will campaign for the Lower House election by promising a stable coalition government that will surely bring about a full-fledged economic recovery in Japan, said party leader Takenori Kanzaki.

"The biggest issue in the upcoming election is that voters will choose the nation's regime," between the current coalition of the Liberal Democratic Party, New Komeito and the New Conservative Party and any coalition that might be formed with the Democratic Party of Japan, the largest opposition party, Kanzaki said in a recent interview with The Japan Times.

The tripartite coalition will ensure stability in politics, which "is essential for Japan to reconstruct the ailing economy," Kanzaki said. "(New Komeito) will implement various reforms based on the stable political footing."

Agreeing with many political observers, Kanzaki said he believes Japan will be ruled by coalition governments for about a decade to come, because it will probably be difficult for the LDP, the largest ruling party, to gain a sole majority in both chambers of the Diet during that period.

His party, which joined the LDP-led coalition in October, is pledging to stay within the coalition framework to pursue the goal of real economic recovery, Kanzaki said.

"I believe New Komeito will ally with the LDP for as long as (the two parties) maintain mutual trust."

In the "era of coalition government," Kanzaki said, political parties have a responsibility to provide the public with a possible party alliance before the general election.

"But opposition parties have failed to present a possible coalition plan this time," he said. "This, I have to say, is an abandonment of their responsibility to voters."

In its campaign pledges, New Komeito is focusing on future financial reconstruction and welfare policies.

The party aims to create 1 million jobs by fiscal 2001 by promoting industries related to information technology, nursing care and environmental protection.

Explaining his party's economic policy, Kanzaki said New Komeito will place priority on stabilizing the economic path for a recovery during fiscal 2001-2002, and move to working for fiscal reconstruction from fiscal 2003 when the economy is back on track.

The party, which currently has 42 seats in the lower chamber, is aiming to secure 50 of the 480 seats in the June 25 election, Kanzaki said.

The combined seats of the three ruling parties should add up to 254, which would enable the coalition bloc to chair all 21 standing committees in the chamber, he added.

As a key strategy, the ruling parties have coordinated the fielding of candidates in single-seat constituencies in order to avoid competition within the triumvirate.

Kanzaki said one of the outcomes of the coalition was that the three parties closely cooperated in the fielding of candidates for this election.

"I believe we can win the election if we achieve full-scale candidate coordination (among allies). It is a dangerous situation for the allied parties to confront each other and fall together."

But members of New Komeito, a party backed by the nation's largest Buddhist lay organization, Soka Gakkai, were disturbed by Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori's recent controversial remark that Japan is "a divine nation with the Emperor at the center."

"In fact, some party members were annoyed, while others claimed they cannot understand (why Mori made) such a remark," Kanzaki said.

But the issue was settled when Mori explained his intention in a news conference and apologized for causing a misunderstanding among the public, Kanzaki said.

The issue may affect the election as observed in the recent sharp decline in public support for Mori's Cabinet, he said.

"But I believe we (the coalition parties) will get more understanding from the public if we seriously present policies for Japan in the 21st century," Kanzaki said.



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