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New Komeito, a junior member of the ruling coalition, continues to struggle as it strives to score points and impress the public before Upper House elections next summer.

On Thursday, New Komeito’s proposal to grant local suffrage to permanent foreign residents — the party’s major selling point in the current Diet session — met a barrage of criticism at a Liberal Democratic Party panel meeting. The panel chairman later told reporters that a vote on the suffrage bill is unlikely before next year, reversing the LDP’s initial stance.

“There is no way we can accept that,” a tired-looking Tetsuzo Fuyushiba, New Komeito’s secretary general, said in the Diet building. “I’m sure deliberations (on the bill) will begin soon, anyway.”

Earlier in the day, a New Komeito proposal to abolish within five years all semigovernmental corporations with special status — which have provided lucrative positions for retired high-ranking bureaucrats — was also dismissed by senior LDP members who wanted to avoid “radical changes.”

Since New Komeito joined the LDP-led ruling coalition one year ago, the popularity of the Buddhist-backed party, which purportedly favors clean politics and human rights issues, has been declining.

The party has bowed to the LDP and forgone its original policies in many areas. Even its major achievement — appropriating 400 billion yen in the fiscal 2000 budget to provide extra benefits to parents with small children — has been criticized by many as pork-barrel politics.

Even senior LDP members, such as Koichi Kato, have suggested that New Komeito should leave the current ruling bloc and compete in the Upper House election on its own.

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