LDP coalition party Komeito approves 8th term for leader

Komeito, the junior coalition partner of Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party, on Sunday endorsed an eighth term for its leader Natsuo Yamaguchi ahead of a spate of local assembly elections next spring.
After being formally approved at the party's convention in Tokyo to lead for another two years, Yamaguchi, 70, said Komeito "will do (its) utmost to support the Kishida administration."
Prime Minister and LDP chief Fumio Kishida, who attended the convention as a guest, congratulated Yamaguchi and called on the participants to "together overcome the difficulties faced by our nation."
Komeito is backed by Japan's largest lay Buddhist organization Soka Gakkai. The self-claimed "peace party" has been a part of the coalition government since 2012.
Yamaguchi, who has served as a lawmaker since 1990, is expected to take a leading role in securing as many seats as possible in the local elections across the country in April as Komeito plans to field a number of candidates.
Later this year, meanwhile, Yamaguchi will coordinate negotiations with the LDP, which has been trying to bolster Japan's security capabilities, in drafting the nation's defense budget despite their differing positions on national security.
The conservative LDP has pledged to double Japan's defense spending to 2 percent or more of gross domestic product -- a level on par with North Atlantic Treaty Organization member states.
A lawyer-turned-politician, Yamaguchi became the leader of Komeito in September 2009 after his predecessor Akihiro Ota resigned to take responsibility for the party's performance in the House of Representatives election earlier that year.
At Sunday's convention, the party retained Keiichi Ishii, 64, as secretary general and newly picked Yosuke Takagi, 62, as policy chief and Makoto Nishida, 60, as election chief.
Kazuo Kitagawa, 69, and Shigeki Sato, 63, were also retained as chair of the Central Secretariat and Diet affairs chief, respectively.
Yamaguchi told a press conference following the convention that the new lineup is aimed at "maintaining the framework of the party, preparing for the unified local elections, and focusing on winning upcoming battles," suggesting the party is currently prioritizing stability over generational change.
But Yamaguchi expressed his intent to bring in younger members in the future, saying, "We will mark the 60th anniversary of the party's founding in two years. We will use this period to prepare for passing the baton to the next generation."

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