Political Drama between Prime Minister ABE and KOMEITO Chief Representative YAMAGUCHI surrounding the Coronavirus Pandemic
(May 2020)


Mr.YAMAGUCHICKOMEITO Chief Representative

An unprecedented reorganization of the 2020 supplementary budget was decided by tough negotiations between Prime Minister ABE and the KOMEITO Chief Representative YAMAGUCHI, who is a member of the House of Councilors on April 16.

The story goes back to March 31. The KOMEITO proposed a plan, which I created, that the government should dole out ¥100,000 per person to all residents in Japan as an urgent economic countermeasure against the coronavirus pandemic.

However, on April 7, the ABE Cabinet agreed on the 2020 supplementary budget which included distributing ¥300,000 to the head of each household who was exempt from local taxes, or who was suffering from more than a 50% decrease in their earnings compared to previous year due to the coronavirus pandemic. The government reformed the KOMEITOfs plan for fiscal reconstruction under the pressure of the Ministry of Finance.

Many KOMEITO parliamentary members and their supporters were disappointed to hear the Cabinetfs decision. However, soon after the news, innumerable critiques and complaints were directed at not only the government but also the ruling bloc, the LDP and KOMEITO, saying its condition was very severe and restricted.

On March 14, even the LDP secretary-general, Mr. NIKAI announced that among people there were imminent voices to require ¥100,000 per person, and he urged the government to implement any countermeasures as soon as possible.

Right after this announcement, Mr. YAMAGUCHI was determined to negotiate with Prime Minister ABE. It has been reported that in the morning of March 15, Mr. YAMAGUCHI spoke to ABE at the Prime Ministerfs office and said gThe KOMEITO requires the government to dole out ¥100,000 per person without any conditions. The reputation of the ABE Cabinet is at stake. If the KOMEITO were asked which group to support, the LDP or the public, it would opt for the public. If ABE didnft change the plan, the KOMEITO would have no choice but to oppose the 2020 supplementary budget.h However, Prime Minister ABE only promised to discuss it after enactment of the budget.

In that afternoon, Mr. YAMAGUCHI called Abe to further request the reorganization of the 2020 supplementary budget as soon as possible. However, ABE refused it, since the 2020 supplementary budget had been already decided by the Cabinet.

Nevertheless, the next day, on March 16 morning, Mr. YAMAGUCHI cornered ABE by phone to realize the reorganization of the budget, saying if ABE did nothing, Mr. YAMAGUCHI would lose the trust of people and resign, leading to the downfall of Prime Minister ABE. At last, ABE decided to accept the offer from Mr. YAMAGUCHI, despite objections from Finance Minister ASO.

The public were very much surprised and delighted to hear this news.
According to the Ministry of Finance, this reorganization needs to secure another ¥8.8 trillion and there has been almost no precedent for such a case. The KOMEITOfs presence is growing in the ruling coalition. However, the power balance between the government, the LDP and the KOMEITO has become complex.

By Yuzuru Takeuchi




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