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Staff writer

Lawmakers who formerly belonged to the defunct Komeito party, which was backed by Soka Gakkai, the nation’s largest lay Buddhist organization, will reunite today after four years of political realignment.

New Komei, which will be formed through the merging of Shinto Heiwa (New Peace Party) and Komei, will become the second-largest opposition party in the Diet, with nearly 66 legislators in the two chambers, which have a total of 752 seats.

Because the ruling Liberal Democratic Party lacks a majority in the Upper House, many experts agree New Komei will play a pivotal role in the power balance of ruling and opposition parties in the Diet.

Takenori Kanzaki, who will lead the new party, and Tetsuzo Fuyushiba, who will serve as its secretary general, have indicated the party will collaborate with the LDP on some policy issues.

Nevertheless, the new party seems unsure what path it will take to secure a foothold as an influential power — whether to side with the LDP or join a non-LDP bloc.

“In the current political situation, in which a two-party system is about to be created — with the ruling LDP locking horns with the Democratic Party of Japan — the reunification of the Komeito forces will give the new party greater influence in the power struggle between the two sides,” said Takeshi Nakai, a political science professor at Seikei University. “The new party will become the key force, because it will cast the deciding votes.”

During Diet proceedings, New Komei is expected to cooperate with either the LDP or DPJ, depending on the issue.

In elections, it plans to collaborate with the DPJ and other opposition forces.

The DPJ, however, is critical of such a double standard, saying cooperation with the LDP on some issues would lead to assisting the administration of Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi.

DPJ President Naoto Kan recently charged that battling the LDP in elections is inconsistent with joining ranks with it on key policies in the Diet.

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