Shinshinto lawmakers who once belonged to the now-defunct Komeito set up a faction May 8 within the largest opposition party to maintain unity at a time when speculation is rife over whether Shinshinto will form an alliance with the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

A total of 63 lawmakers backed by the nation’s largest Buddhist lay organization, Soka-Gakkai, attended the inaugural meeting of the group, named Koyukai, and agreed to have regular meetings to further strengthen ties and to exchange information related to the political climate. They constitute a major part of Shinshinto, which has 202 members in the lower and upper chambers of the Diet.

The factional group, led by Takenori Kanzaki, chairman of Shinshinto’s general affairs council, was established in the wake of a surprise formation in late March of a study group on national security consisting of lawmakers from the LDP and Shinshinto, excluding former Komeito members. The formation of the study group has been considered a step toward formation of a conservative alliance between the LDP and Shinshinto, dozens whose members once belonged to the LDP.

This theory was fueled by the LDP’s failure at the time to obtain support from the Social Democratic Party, one of its allies, for an amendment to empower the government to continue the forced use of land in Okinawa Prefecture for the U.S. military.

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