TIME RUNNING OUT

‘Ugly duckling’ Hatoyama calls for party unity

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DPJ leader Yukio Hatoyama said Friday his party needs to overcome the internal conflict ignited by his unexpected appointment of Kansei Nakano as the party’s secretary general and pull together in time for the Oct. 27 by-elections.

“I will do my utmost to unite the heart of party members,” Hatoyama said. “We will aim at winning all (of the by-elections in seven constituencies).”

Hatoyama, 55, refused to say how many defeats it would take for him to consider stepping down, saying he is leaving it up to voters to make their judgment in the elections. Two Upper House seats and five Lower House seats are up for grabs in the elections.

In September, Hatoyama was narrowly re-elected as president of the party after a close runoff with former Secretary General Naoto Kan. But after he named Nakano as his right-hand man, party members refused to cooperate, saying the appointment was simply payback to Nakano for supporting Hatoyama in the leadership race.

Hatoyama spent almost a week deciding on the new leadership lineup, including the policy chief post.

Nakano had expressed his intention to run in the presidential election but later gave up his candidacy to back Hatoyama. The support of Nakano and his group, mainly members of the now-defunct Democratic Socialist Party, is widely believed to have led to Hatoyama attaining the top spot.

Hatoyama said he allocated key posts to each of the campaign groups of three other candidates he fought in the race.

“In deciding major posts, I wanted the opinion of each group to be reflected,” he said.

Hatoyama said he hoped Nakano would act as a coordinator, ironing out the differences of opinion within the party while Hatoyama works on mapping out his policies.

Hatoyama added that the buck now stops with him.

“(When Kan was secretary general) it was like a two-horse carriage, and people wondered who was the president,” he said. “From now on, it will be a vertical relationship (between me and Nakano).”

Referring to harsh media reports of the internal confusion surrounding the naming of key posts, Hatoyama said: “I must listen to various criticisms against me. But it is cruel to label me as an ugly duckling before I even take actions.”

As for his stance against Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s administration, Hatoyama said he will decide his party’s position based on specific issues, rather than simply opposing everything.

When Koizumi took office in April 2001, the Democratic Party Japan threw its support behind his reform agenda only to later change its position, drawing criticism for its inconsistent stance.

Hatoyama said his party must expand its support base and wean itself off its dependency on labor unions, which as major supporters have a big say in the party’s policymaking procedure.

Hatoyama cited the relationship between British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s Labour Party and labor unions, which he noted are among numerous other groups supporting the party.