In a last-minute compromise, New Komeito said Thursday it would support former U.N. Undersecretary General Yasushi Akashi, who is being fielded by the Liberal Democratic Party, for the Tokyo gubernatorial election — but just “at the local level.”
New Komeito Secretary General Tetsuzo Fuyushiba said the party’s Tokyo chapter will recommend Akashi, although it does not mean the party fully backs him. New Komeito is believed to have made the decision because the party, the second-largest opposition force in national politics, has been torn between two conflicting interests. While its Tokyo chapter hopes to maintain its longtime bonds with the LDP in the metropolitan assembly, the party needs to take an anti-LDP posture in other local polls slated this month.
The Tokyo chapter, meanwhile, was unable to reach a decision about whom to support until Wednesday night since some members insisted on Kunio Hatoyama, who is backed by the Democratic Party of Japan, according to Tokyo chapter executives.
The New Komeito chapter had decided to recommend Akashi after acknowledging his contribution to peace as a U.N. undersecretary general, Tokyo chapter executives said. The chapter expects Akashi’s strong leadership will help make Tokyo a place of comfortable living for its citizens, they said.
The LDP and the DPJ, the largest opposition party, have been closely watching New Komeito, whose biggest supporter — Soka Gakkai, Japan’s largest lay Buddhist organization — is believed to control nearly 800,000 faithful voters in Tokyo. But the party’s decision was delayed until Thursday because of the ever-changing race, which became even more unpredictable when Shintaro Ishihara, a former LDP member and transport minister, announced his candidacy. New Komeito has said that one of its most important policies is to support a candidate who can promise a victory.
Meanwhile, the Liberal Party decided last week that it will not support a particular candidate despite the party’s alliance with the LDP at the national level. Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiromu Nonaka expressed his appreciation Thursday at a regular news conference for New Komeito’s decision to partially back Akashi. “I appreciate New Komeito’s decision, which will enable the LDP to have strong backing in the election, in which the LDP is facing various difficulties,” Nonaka said.