Aso adds to Cabinet but LDP execs stay

Same-name pair tapped to fill in after resignations

by Masami Ito

Prime Minister Taro Aso gave up an apparent plan to rejigger the Liberal Democratic Party’s top posts Wednesday as strong opposition from LDP heavyweights only left him leeway to fill two Cabinet posts concurrently held by other ministers.

On Wednesday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura announced that Upper House legislator Yoshimasa Hayashi will become the fiscal and economic policy minister, lightening the load of triple-hitting Finance Minister Kaoru Yosano, who is also financial services minister.

Lower House lawmaker Motoo Hayashi will be appointed chairman of the National Public Safety Commission, a post concurrently held by internal affairs minister Tsutomu Sato, Kawamura said. Sato replaced Kunio Hatoyama, who resigned last month as internal affairs minister over a spat with Aso.

The appointments will take effect Thursday, he said.

“Hayashi has thorough knowledge of economic and fiscal policies through his experience as parliamentary secretary for the Finance Ministry and senior vice minister of the Cabinet Office,” Kawamura said. “The economic situation is still unpredictable and we would like Hayashi to implement the enacted budget (for fiscal 2009) and continue taking all possible measures to manage economic policies with a sense of urgency.”

Yoshimasa Hayashi, 48, is assuming his second Cabinet post after a brief stint as defense minister last August under then Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda.

The Harvard-educated House of Councilors member started his political career as secretary to his finance minister father in 1992 and entered the Upper House in 1995, representing Yamaguchi Prefecture.

Motoo Hayashi, 62, briefly served as chairman of the National Public Safety Commission last summer under Fukuda. But he only served a month because Fukuda stepped down out of the blue in September.

The Chiba Prefecture native entered the House of Representatives in 1993 after serving as a member of the Chiba Prefectural Assembly and is currently the LDP’s deputy secretary general.

Kawamura said he is hoping Motoo will perform like “tried-and-true personnel.”

Aso reportedly was thinking of reshuffling the Cabinet and the LDP’s top executives.

But many LDP members, including former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori and former Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura, opposed changing out the leaders, making it difficult for him to oust the top executives — most notably LDP Secretary General Hiroyuki Hosoda, who is said to be unpopular.

Mori and Hosoda belong to the LDP’s biggest faction, which Machimura heads. Aso was elected LDP president mainly because of support from Machimura’s faction.

“I have never said I will change personnel of LDP executives,” Aso told reporters. “The spending cap for fiscal 2010 was endorsed,” so the timing was good.

Kawamura also denied hearing Aso say anything about changing party executives. “I myself don’t think there was anything (said)” about reshuffling the executives, he said. “I have never heard about a party reshuffle.”

Many members, however, support reshuffling the Cabinet — a time-honored tactic the party has used to refresh its stodgy image.

Kawamura, however, denied the government’s aim to boost popularity.

“For some time, the prime minister has said that policies come ahead of politics,” Kawamura said. “That is where he is looking and I think that (whether the support rate will increase or not) depends on the way the government does its job.”

Media polls have suggested the LDP could lose power to the Democratic Party of Japan as the main opposition force recovers momentum and advances.

Hajime Funada, deputy chairman of the LDP’s General Council, said Wednesday that Aso should be careful about changing out the top LDP executives. “Personally, I would like (Aso) to be cautious about personnel issues, especially in the face of an election,” Funada said.

“The members of the General Council also confirmed yesterday that it was their general opinion that (Aso) should be careful about personnel affairs.”

Information from Kyodo added