DPJ starts to plan Cabinet lineup

Talks scheduled with opposition allies over coalition government

Kyodo News

The Democratic Party of Japan launched plans Sunday to put together a new administration as it headed for certain victory in a historic general election, DPJ members said.

DPJ President Yukio Hatoyama is brainstorming with acting Presidents Naoto Kan and Ichiro Ozawa in Tokyo on how best to take over from Prime Minister Taro Aso’s Cabinet with the ouster of the Liberal Democratic Party-New Komeito ruling bloc.

On Monday, the DPJ plans to hold talks with its two opposition allies — the Social Democratic Party and People’s New Party — on forming a coalition government, the members said.

Hatoyama has indicated that if his party wins, some of the seats in the DPJ-led Cabinet would be reserved for the two minor parties.

The two parties fear their influence in a coalition government will be limited if the DPJ scores a landslide.

The DPJ is expected to launch an official transition team after filling key posts, including chief Cabinet secretary and state minister in charge of the National Strategy Bureau, a proposed policymaking unit, before appointing the remainder of the Cabinet.

The policy chief will concurrently serve as the strategy bureau minister, while the post of chief Cabinet secretary will be beefed up to include Diet affairs to facilitate procedures there with whoever becomes the Diet affairs chief.

The DPJ, which has called for reducing the government’s dependence on bureaucrats, has pledged to send 100 members of the Diet to work in the government as senior vice ministers and parliamentary secretaries.

But concern persists over how the party will handle administration because it is short on experienced lawmakers.

“I’m afraid a public backlash will ensue when we fail to sail smoothly amid such lofty public expectations,” a senior DPJ official said.

As part of the transition, the DPJ is set to ask the prime minister’s office for information about the flu epidemic and other threats.

A special Diet session is slated to be convened on Sept. 14 in which Hatoyama will be selected prime minister. The new government will then embark on forming the National Strategy Bureau, a body that will be tasked with mapping out budgets and the foreign and national security policies.

The bureau will initially start as the National Strategy Office and be promoted to a formal bureau at what is expected to be the DPJ’s first Cabinet meeting in September.

The party will also prepare to launch one of its key bodies, the Administrative Reform Council, designed to watch out for wasteful spending and irregularities among central government bureaucrats.

Both of the entities — the National Strategy Bureau and the Administrative Reform Council — will be formally established after the party amends related laws at an extraordinary Diet session to be convened as early as October.

As for specific campaign promises, the DPJ aims to prioritize its key pledges, such as the ¥26,000 monthly child allowance and toll-free expressways, and incorporate them in the 2010 budget, which it plans to compile by the end of this year.

“Through the campaign, these steps drew overwhelming public support,” a senior DPJ official in charge of policy research said.

If the DPJ-led government fails to get cooperation from the bureaucrats, however, it is expected to set off a firestorm in the LDP and New Komeito.

If the transition goes smoothly, Hatoyama will visit the United States in late September to attend the United Nations General Assembly and the Group of 20 financial summit. He also will hold talks with his counterparts, including U.S. President Barack Obama, on the sidelines of the international events.