Passing supplementary budget may take priority over snap election

by Kazuaki Nagata and Masami Ito

Newly elected Liberal Democratic Party President Taro Aso vowed Monday to do his utmost to solve problems that range from revitalizing the economy to improving the health care system.

In the evening, Aso appointed former Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda as LDP secretary general, the party’s No. 2 post.

Aso also gave former LDP policy chief Nobuteru Ishihara, one of his opponents in the presidential election, one of the party’ two deputy secretary general posts. Motoo Hayashi, the current chairman of the National Public Safety Commission, was also appointed deputy secretary general.

Aso refrained from making changes to any of the other key LDP posts, retaining Diet affairs chief Tadamori Oshima, policy chief Kosuke Hori, Takashi Sasagawa as chairman of the General Council, and Makoto Koga as chairman of the Election Strategy Council.

At a news conference after the election, Aso denied he will hold a snap Lower House election right after his appointment as prime minister, due Wednesday, and stressed the importance of implementing a supplementary budget.

“Economic conditions are bad. I think it’s obvious to everyone,” Aso said, adding that the emergency economic package compiled by outgoing Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda is well thought out and carefully planned.

Asked what he would do if the Democratic Party of Japan refuses to debate and vote on a bill to execute the supplementary budget at the extraordinary Diet session later this month, Aso said he finds it’s hard to imagine that the opposition camp will refuse to discuss the budget at a time when the economy is slowing due to rising oil and food prices.

Aso said he will see how things go before deciding when to hold a general election, in which he will come up against DPJ leader Ichiro Ozawa, who was officially re-elected to a third term as president Sunday.

On the unpopular health care program for people aged 75 or older, the new LDP president said: “it’s not that the system is all bad. . . . The system is quite complicated to understand easily, so it needs to be explained thoroughly.”