Democratic Party of Japan lawmaker Yukio Edano was appointed the new administrative reform minister Wednesday, as the Hatoyama administration works to clean up the Cabinet’s scandal-tainted image.
Edano, 45, was a key figure in the government task force set up late last year that succeeded in trimming ¥677 billion from the previous administration’s budget. He is one of the few DPJ lawmakers to have openly criticized DPJ Secretary General Ichiro Ozawa over his dubious political funding.
“In order for the DPJ to regain the public’s trust and maintain it, I wanted (Edano) to be in charge (of administrative reform) as soon as possible,” Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama told reporters.
Edano “was a central figure in the waste-cutting process. It is vital that the second round of operations be launched” soon under his management, Hatoyama said.
Edano, who was widely expected to become a special adviser to the prime minister, will instead take over from Yoshito Sengoku as reform minister. Sengoku had been doubling as minister for national strategy but will now focus solely on that task.
During his inaugural news conference, Edano said the Cabinet’s focus is on passing the fiscal 2010 budget in the current Diet session but added he is ready to push his reforms as soon as the stage is set.
“I will handle my job from the public’s viewpoint, focusing on effective use of tax money. I know the public has very high expectations,” Edano said. “Once the fiscal budget plan clears the Diet, the second round of waste-cutting will begin as soon as possible.”
While it is unclear how Edano’s appointment will affect Hatoyama’s relationship with Ozawa, the prime minister told reporters Ozawa had no problem with the move.
“I spoke with Secretary General Ozawa the day before yesterday about the issue. He said he has no objections whatsoever,” Hatoyama said.
Although Edano avoided directly criticizing Ozawa over the funds management scandal at the news conference, the former DPJ policy chief said his stance remains unchanged regardless of where he serves in the government.
“It is up to the public to decide whether Mr. Ozawa has sufficiently explained” the details of the scandal, he said.
Wednesday’s appointment comes a month after the resignation of Finance Minister Hirohisa Fujii.
Fujii’s post was taken over by Naoto Kan, whose previous role as national strategy minister then fell to administrative reform minister Sengoku.
“The Cabinet needs to reinforce its control and power as we launch organizational reform in the upcoming fiscal year,” said Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirofumi Hirano in explaining Edano’s appointment, adding Edano he has already proved his abilities through his role in the budget task force.
Edano and Hatoyama both attended an attestation ceremony at the Imperial Palace earlier in the day. Following the appointment, the Cabinet is now at the legal maximum of 17.
Edano is serving his sixth term in the Lower House.