Noda taps Fujimura to be right-hand man

LDP, New Komeito told previous agreements will be honored

by Masami Ito and Natsuko Fukue

Staff Writers

Newly appointed executives of the Democratic Party of Japan promised the leading opposition parties Thursday that they will uphold agreements to give up or scale back some of the key pledges the DPJ made before taking power, including the monthly child allowances.

Prime Minister-elect Yoshihiko Noda, who was believed struggling to select his chief Cabinet secretary, effectively his right-hand man, named close ally Osamu Fujimura to the post Thursday afternoon.

Noda is expected to launch his Cabinet on Friday.

Fujimura, 61, a Lower House member elected from an Osaka constituency, has been a low-profile politician.

Both Noda and Fujimura were first elected to the Diet in 1993 as members of the now-defunct Japan New Party, and Fujimura is considered Noda’s closest aide and a long-time friend. He headed Noda’s campaign office for the DPJ presidential race, helping him to win the election and succeed departing Prime Minister Naoto Kan.

Earlier in the day, Noda held bilateral meetings with Liberal Democratic Party President Sadakazu Tanigaki and New Komeito chief Natsuo Yamaguchi to seek their cooperation in passing bills in the divided Diet.

After the meetings, Noda told reporters he proposed setting up a trilateral policy-coordination framework to hammer out measures to reconstruct the disaster hit Tohoku region.

“I asked them to hold policy consultations to discuss the measures necessary for restoration and reconstruction,” Noda said. “I believe we were able to (share) basic ideas.”

But according to Noda, he didn’t seek in either meeting to form a grand coalition, something he had previously expressed interest in to break the Diet gridlock.

During the meeting, Tanigaki reportedly expressed his willingness to cooperate with the DPJ over measures to recover from the devastating March 11 earthquake and tsunami but is also set to urge Noda to dissolve the Lower House and call a snap election once reconstruction measures get under way.

The LDP and New Komeito had expressed strong concern that the new DPJ executives, headed by Secretary General Azuma Koshiishi, a close ally of indicted DPJ kingpin Ichiro Ozawa, may overturn the three-party agreements made in August to give up some of the core pledges listed in the DPJ’s 2009 campaign platform.

Ozawa strongly opposed watering down the manifesto that led the DPJ to a historic victory over the LDP in the 2009 Lower House election.

But Koshiishi and other party executives met with members of the LDP and New Komeito separately Thursday and reassured them the trilateral accords stand.

“Mr. Koshiishi said he fully understands that the three-party agreements are about trust among the parties . . . he asked us to trust him,” New Komeito Diet affairs chief Yoshio Urushibara said after the meeting.

For Noda, the two most important tasks will be to reunite the DPJ, which has been split into pro- and anti-Ozawa camps, and to build a relationship of trust with the opposition parties.

Noda was at first keen on appointing as chief Cabinet secretary former DPJ Secretary General Katsuya Okada, who is policy-oriented and has served as foreign minister and party leader.

But Okada was one of the key DPJ members who decided to suspend Ozawa’s party membership and there is concern that appointing him would anger allies of the “shadow shogun.”

Other names circulating in political circles include former education minister Tatsuo Kawabata, a veteran DPJ lawmaker who is considered to be neutral toward the pro- and anti-Ozawa groups.

Reconstruction minister Tatsuo Hirano and Goshi Hosono, minister in charge of the nuclear crisis, are considered highly likely to be reappointed.

Other lawmakers, including former deputy DPJ policy chief Koriki Jojima and former Diet affairs chief Jun Azumi, were also reportedly expected to be given ministerial posts.

Information from Kyodo added

Nod to Big Business

Kyodo

Incoming Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda pledged Thursday to make constant efforts to boost growth and help the nation recover from the March 11 disaster as he met with executives of Keidanren and the other two top business lobbies.