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date: 16 April 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter surveys the history, operation in coalition, support base, and key policies of Kōmeitō (the Clean Government Party). It begins with an overview of party typologies and argues that Kōmeitō is not easily placed in any comparative political science category. The chapter then delves into the party’s history, detailing its origins in 1964 as an outgrowth from Sōka Gakkai, an influential Japanese lay Buddhist organization. It discusses Kōmeitō’s increasing institutional disaggregation from Sōka Gakkai after its formal separation in 1970, its role in changing Japan’s political system in the 1990s, and its entrée into governmental coalition with the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) from 1999. The analysis extends to the present and draws on elections data, party publications, interviews with Kōmeitō politicians, ethnography within Sōka Gakkai, and other sources to track ways the party has relied on Gakkai vote-gatherers to secure a pivotal position within Japanese politics, even as its adherent supporters have become increasingly diverse and liable to critique the party their religion founded. It concludes by considering challenges Kōmeitō faces from within Sōka Gakkai, from the LDP, and from Japan’s demographic, political, and societal shifts.

Keywords: Kōmeitō, Clean Government Party, Sōka Gakkai, Japan, Nichiren Buddhism, religion, elections, campaigning, coalitions

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