Members of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan approved on Monday the selection of new Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s DPJ executives, with the influence of party kingpin Ichiro Ozawa conspicuously absent.
Kan plans to launch his government Tuesday with most of the Cabinet ministers under his predecessor, Yukio Hatoyama, keeping their posts.
In a bid to distance the DPJ from the political money scandals involving Ozawa, Kan appointed government revitalization minister Yukio Edano as party secretary general to replace the “shadow shogun.”
Shinji Tarutoko, who ran against Kan in the DPJ presidential race Friday, was named Diet affairs chief.
Kan will resurrect the position of party policy chief, which was abolished by Ozawa last year, and appoint Lower House DPJ member Koichiro Genba to the position. Analysts see him as a prospective leader of the next generation of politicians.
Edano and Genba are known to have distanced themselves from Ozawa.
Fellow Ozawa critics Katsuya Okada is expected to stay on as foreign minister and Seiji Maehara as land minister.
“This is a restart for the DPJ following the resignation of Prime Minister Hatoyama,” Kan told a meeting of all DPJ Diet members.
Each member will need to work toward rebuilding the party following recent developments, he added.
Following his appointment, Edano asked DPJ members to pitch in and support Kan and his new Cabinet.
Kan criticized Ozawa last week, saying the veteran should “remain quiet” for a while following his resignation. Monday’s appointments reflect this position.
During his first news conference as secretary general, Edano said it is vital to promote transparency of the party’s decision-making process and the disclosure of information to regain the public’s trust, which has been marred by the string of money scandals dogging the ruling party.
As a first step, Edano said he would stop taking political donations from corporations and organizations.
“As of today, I personally will not be receiving any corporate donations,” he proclaimed, stressing the importance of the DPJ promoting an open and clean image.
Tarutoko, the newly appointed Diet affairs chief, declined to clarify whether the current Diet session will be extended but said a decision will have to be made after “listening to all sides.”
New party policy chief Genba said he will try to reflect the voices of younger lawmakers while also striving to unify the policymaking process of the Cabinet and party.
“I would like to create a framework (for the policy council) at least by the time the (Upper House) election is over,” he said.
Meanwhile, Jun Azumi, new chairman of the party’s campaign committee, mentioned before he was appointed that he may revise part of Ozawa’s master plan for the upcoming Upper House election.
“We may look into redoing some of the strategy within the week,” the 48-year-old Azumi told reporters, indicating he may nix Ozawa’s plan to field multiple candidates in the 12 districts from which two lawmakers will be elected.
A few members close to Ozawa who made the cut include Goshi Hosono, who was promoted from deputy secretary general to what the DPJ calls “acting” secretary general.
Kan won the DPJ presidential election following the abrupt resignation of Hatoyama and Ozawa, both of whom have been embroiled in money scandals that helped drag the Cabinet approval rate below 20 percent. Kan’s rise paid initial dividends, with opinion polls over the weekend showing support for the DPJ skyrocketing to more than 60 percent.
While appointing fresh faces to the DPJ’s executive positions, Kan is expected to stick with most of Hatoyama’s ministers when he announces his Cabinet on Tuesday.
New faces to join the Cabinet include Renho, who gained fame for her role under Hatoyama in cutting wasteful spending. The Upper House lawmaker is expected to be named minister in charge of administrative reform.
Yoshito Sengoku, a DPJ heavyweight known for keeping Ozawa at arm’s length, will be chief Cabinet secretary. Sengoku’s previous position as state minister in charge of national strategy is expected to be given to Satoshi Arai, an assistant to Hatoyama.
State secretary for foreign affairs Tetsuro Fukuyama and senior vice Cabinet Office minister Motohisa Furukawa are to work under Sengoku as deputy chief Cabinet secretaries.
Former Vice Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda is expected to be promoted to finance minister, a post Kan vacated last week.
Genba may also double as a Cabinet member, sources said.
Departing the Cabinet will be agriculture minister Hirotaka Akamatsu, who was heavily criticized for failing to halt the spread to foot-and-mouth disease in Miyazaki Prefecture.
Hirofumi Hirano, Hatoyama’s chief Cabinet secretary, will also be shown the door, after failing to support the key policies of his ex-boss, including the relocation of the Futenma air base.
Kan and his new team have little time to prove their knack, with less than two weeks left in the current Diet session and the Upper House election coming up soon.