Komeito switches sides in Osaka

Japan, Osaka castle
Japan, Osaka castle

The Osaka Restoration Association’s task of returning to power in the April 7 elections has become much more difficult now that it has become clear that the influential Komeito party has effectively betrayed its local political alliance and has defected to the opposition side of the Liberal Democratic Party.

This means that Osaka Restoration Association will be facing a united front of all other political parties, ranging from the deeply conservative Liberal Democratic Party to the far left Japan Communist Party, who will quite unusually be supporting the same gubernatorial and mayoral candidates in their mutual hostility to the local ruling party.

Perhaps most concerning for the ruling Osaka Restoration Association leaders is that Komeito controls one of Japan’s most effective vote-gathering political machines based on its Buddhist support base that votes in an extremely disciplined manner on the basis of their religion. That political machine, which had been helpful to the Osaka Restoration Association, will now be working for the other side.

The balance of power in the prefectural assembly illustrates the dilemma. Currently, the Osaka Restoration Association has 40 seats and Komeito 15 seats in the 88-seat chamber, which combined has provided a stable governing majority. The opposition is led by the Liberal Democratic Party which holds 26 seats. This means that a swing of only four seats from the  Osaka Restoration Association to the Liberal Democratic Party could tip control of the chamber to a new Liberal Democratic Party-Komeito alliance.

Under the IR Implementation Act, prefectural assemblies must endorse local plans to seek an IR license.

In the gubernatorial contest, the Liberal Democratic Party-led united opposition candidate will be Tadakazu Konishi, a former vice-governor noted for his policy disagreements with Governor Ichiro Matsui. He will be facing the Osaka Restoration Association candidate Hirofumi Yoshimura, who is attempting to move up from his current post as mayor.

The opposition candidate who will face Ichiro Matsui for the post of Osaka mayor has yet to be selected.