The ruling Liberal Democratic Party regained a majority in the powerful House of Representatives on Friday when it agreed to allow a former Shinshinto member to return to the party fold.
It is the first time in four years for the LDP to have 251 members in the 500-seat chamber, including Lower House Speaker Soichiro Ito, who became an independent when he assumed the post last November. Traditionally, the speaker and vice speaker are independents to ensure fairness.
“It is meaningful for our party to have the majority in the chamber, which guarantees that the Cabinet will not be affected by a no-confidence motion,” said LDP Secretary General Koichi Kato.
“But we should remain humble in dealing with the political situation and policy-related matters because we still lack a majority in the (252-seat) Upper House by 14 seats,” Kato told reporters.
The LDP’s No. 2 man said a comfortable majority of 265 seats in the Lower House would be necessary for political stability.
The 251st LDP member of the Lower House is Naoto Kitamura, who left the party in June 1993 to follow Ichiro Ozawa, then one of the most prominent figures in the LDP.
Ozawa, together with about five dozen LDP defectors, formed a new party, depriving the LDP of its power after 38 years of political monopoly.
The new party then became part of the largest opposition party, Shinshinto.
Since the LDP obtained 239 Lower House seats in last October’s general election, Kato and his colleagues have been negotiating with a few dozen Diet members, including former LDP members in Shinshinto, to invite them to the LDP. Kitamura is one of them.
It is believed that success in regaining a majority in the chamber will help Kato push aside an intraparty group opposing him and hoping to form a conservative-conservative union with Shinshinto.
Kato champions the maintenance of the current cooperative ties with the Social Democratic Party and New Party Sakigake.
Kato said Friday that the party expects a few more such lawmakers to join the LDP in the near future.
Shinshinto has lost three dozen lawmakers since the October election due to constant intraparty strife and the increasingly weakening leadership of Ozawa.
The number of LDP ranks fall from 274 to 223 after July 1993 general election, and it was ousted from power for the first time since 1955.
But the party came back to power as a coalition partner in June 1994 with the Social Democratic Party and New Party Sakigake under former Socialist Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama. Commenting on the LDP’s increased parliamentary strength, Chief Cabinet Secretary Seiroku Kajiyama said the alliance between the LDP and its two parliamentary partners will remain despite the recovery of a simple majority in the House of Representatives.