‘Shadow secretary general’ drops ‘shadow’ from title

Hiromu Nonaka, a powerful member of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party who has long been dubbed the LDP’s “shadow secretary general,” lost the “shadow” from his tag Wednesday.

Nonaka, 74, was appointed to the party’s No. 2 post after his predecessor, Yoshiro Mori, was elected LDP president.

Nonaka, a six-term member of the Lower House, was chief Cabinet secretary in Keizo Obuchi’s Cabinet from July 1998 to October 1999 and exerted a major influence over the administration.

Earlier, he had held the post of home affairs minister.

He served as a town assembly member, town mayor, a Kyoto prefectural assembly member and Kyoto vice governor before he was first elected to the Lower House from his Kyoto constituency in a 1980 by-election.

Although he did not make his debut in national politics until his 50s, Nonaka was an influential figure in central political circles, thanks to wide-ranging contacts he built up during his 30-year career as a local politician.

Nonaka, Obuchi and Liberal Party leader Ichiro Ozawa once belonged to the same LDP faction, founded by former Prime Minister Noboru Takeshita and later taken over by Obuchi.

After Ozawa broke ranks and left the LDP in 1993, Nonaka was harshly critical of him. More recently, he surprised his fellow LDP colleagues when he vowed to “throw myself at the feet of Mr. Ozawa” to bring the Liberal Party into a coalition with the LDP.

The LDP’s alliance with the Liberal Party, established in January 1999, helped stabilize Obuchi’s administration. It came to an end during an Obuchi-Ozawa meeting Saturday, after which Obuchi suffered a stroke and fell into a coma.

Despite his often aggressive political style, Nonaka is known for his concern for the marginalized.

He is director of an organization running welfare facilities for the disabled in his native Kyoto Prefecture.

He has often spoken sympathetically to the people of Okinawa on the issue of U.S. military bases there and is known to support improved ties with North Korea.