Ota not ready to throw in towel yet


New Komeito leader Akihiro Ota and Secretary General Kazuo Kitagawa, two surprise losers in the Lower House election, refused to say Monday whether they will step down over the party’s devastating 10-seat loss.

“I am painfully aware of my responsibility over the result of the election,” Ota said at a news conference in the morning. “Our key goal in the meantime is to rebuild the party, and I would like to thoroughly discuss with the party’s executive members whether I should resign.”

New Komeito, which had 31 seats in the Lower House before it was dissolved in July, was only able to muster 21 seats Sunday through proportional representation.

All eight of the candidates it fielded in single-seat districts lost.

Ota’s comment followed public apologies by Prime Minister Taro Aso, Liberal Democratic Party Secretary General Hiroyuki Hosoda and Kokumin Shinto (People’s New Party) leader Tamisuke Watanuki. All said they would resign.

Watanuki, adding insult to injury, did not make it back into the Lower House.

But Ota said that his situation was like “a blank sheet of paper” and refused to elaborate on his future course of action.

Despite his comments, Ota will eventually have to step down as party chief because he no longer has a seat in the Diet.

Since the LDP and New Komeito, which is backed by Soka Gakkai, the nation’s largest lay Buddhist organization, were both defeated in the election, they will assume the role of the opposition and their coalition is expected to be annulled.

Although critics said New Komeito’s loss was a result of its direct association with the LDP, Ota said that he valued the relationship it formed with the ruling party.

“We drew up a joint policy platform and we fought the election, promising the people that we would follow through,” Ota said. “Regardless of the result, I would like to value the trusting relationship we have built with the LDP from the viewpoint of implementing the policies.”

On the other hand, he said he would wait and see what actions the new ruling party takes before deciding whether to cooperate with it.

“We would like to wait and see how the DPJ intends to run the government,” Ota said. “I think that it is important for political parties and politicians to hold policy discussions and talks on issues related to the people’s lives and Japan’s crisis, but at the moment, we will watch the DPJ’s government administration closely and then take action.”