Prime Minister Naoto Kan on Monday gave some of his Cabinet ministers new jobs and hired a member of the top opposition party to be his parliamentary secretary for internal affairs — moves that were viewed as an effort to extend his grip on power despite stated plans to step down.
The moves angered the leadership of the conservative Liberal Democratic Party and even dismayed some in his own party, ensuring the Democratic Party of Japan-led ruling coalition will have a tough time handling government-sponsored bills in the divided Diet.
“I don’t think (the appointment of an LDP member) will be a plus in managing Diet affairs,” said Jun Azumi, the DPJ’s diet affairs chief. “It will just make the situation even tougher.”
On Monday, Kan appointed LDP Upper House lawmaker Kazuyuki Hamada, who has decided to defect, to parliamentary secretary of the internal affairs ministry and made him a member of the headquarters for rebuilding disaster-stricken Tohoku.
He also promoted adviser Goshi Hosono to state minister in charge of the nuclear power plant crisis and head of consumer affairs and food-safety issues.
Renho, the popular administrative reform minister who only goes by one name, was appointed Kan’s special advisor and will relinquish her portfolio to Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano.
Last week, Kan announced that Environment Minister Ryu Matsumoto had been tapped as minister of the new reconstruction agency. His old job will be taken over by Justice Minister Satsuki Eda, who will perform both roles at once.
Kan said earlier under pressure that he plans to step down after the nation regains solid footing from the March 11 disasters, cooling a rebellion in his divided DPJ. But his refusal to set a solid exit date has left his foes frustrated. His departure has lately been linked to passing key budget- and energy-related bills.
Edano, Kan’s right-hand man, rushed Monday to say that the new appointments do not mean Kan is just trying to stay in power.
“The prime minister has said that he intends to hand over (his duties) to the younger generation once the measures dealing with the disaster reach a certain point, and I don’t believe that has changed at all,” Edano said Monday evening.
Kan also asked Shizuka Kamei, leader of Kokumin Shinto (People’s New Party), the DPJ’s junior partner in the ruling bloc, to become deputy prime minister, but was turned down.
Kamei will instead become a special adviser to the prime minister. Further details of the arrangement were not immediately available.
Hamada told reporters Monday evening that he submitted his resignation notice to the LDP so he can to cooperate with the government.
Hamada, a scholar on international security issues who was elected from Tottori on the LDP ticket last summer, said he wants to be an independent.