The New Komeitô ("public light party") is the third-largest political party
, after the Liberal Democratic Party
and the Democratic Party of Japan
. It was formed in 1998
from the small Komei New Party
and the larger New Peace Party
. Stepping back for a moment, the NPP was formed upon the disbandment of the Shinshinto
(New Frontier Party
) in 1997
, and both Shinshinto and Komei were created when the original Komeito
party dissolved in 1994
. Therefore, the "New Komeito" is exactly what its name implies: it is a new incarnation of the originial Komeito party.
Komeito was formed in 1964 by the Soka Gakkai, a large sect of Buddhism that now claims a membership of 8 million Japanese households. Despite its parochial roots, New Komeito is a secular party, and its official ties to Soka Gakkai have been severed since the seventies. The relationship between SG and NK is roughly analogous to the relationship between the Christian Coalition and the Republican Party in the United States: mutual support, but separate operations.
New Komei's platform is centered on many planks. Domestically, they are a fairly liberal group, advocating social welfare, better education, civil rights, and environmentalism. In the foreign arena, they are opposed to the Japan-US security relationship, and want to increase Japan's role in the international arena (especially in arms control and peacekeeping) without compromising the current, pacifist Japanese constitution.
In 1999, New Komeito became part of the LDP-Liberal coalition government led by Obuchi Keizo. NK member Tsuzuki Kunihiro was named Director General of Administrative Affairs in the Prime Minister’s Office, and retained his position under Mori Yoshiro's cabinet. The New Komeito continues to work within Koizumi's coalition government, although their voice is usually squeaky when it is audible at all.
NK's current chairman is House of Representatives member Kanzaki Takenori. In the current Diet, New Komei holds 31 seats in the House of Representatives, and 23 seats in the House of Councillors.