Abe hopes ex-defense chief will boost party profile

Koike top choice for next LDP policy chief

Kyodo, JIJI

Liberal Democratic Party chief Shinzo Abe is likely to tap former Defense Minister Yuriko Koike to be his policy chief when he reshuffles the leadership, sources said.

Abe hopes the appointment of Koike, a television anchorwoman-turned politician who is well-versed in policy matters and known across the nation, will help boost the party’s profile as it gears up for the Upper House election next summer after cruising to victory in the Dec. 16 Lower House election, the sources said Saturday.

In the meantime, Takeo Kawamura will remain director general of the LDP’s Election Bureau but his post will be raised to the same level as the party’s top three posts — secretary general, Policy Research Council chairman and chairman of the General Council, a top decision-making body, the sources said.

Former Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuhisa Shiozaki is likely to be tapped to be acting chairman of the Policy Research Council.

Former Defense Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi is being considered for a post in the Cabinet to be formed next week. He was one of the four members Abe defeated in the party’s presidential election in September.

Abe will appoint all of his rivals, excluding former Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura, who is ill, to important posts in his Cabinet and the party, the sources said, adding that former Secretary General Nobuteru Ishihara will get a Cabinet post and Shigeru Ishiba will stay on as secretary general.

From New Komeito, which is set to form a ruling coalition with the LDP, former party chief Akihiro Ota is highly likely to be tapped as minister of land, infrastructure, transport and tourism, the sources said.

Former LDP Diet affairs head Ichiro Aisawa is expected to secure his first Cabinet post, and former LDP policy leader Toshimitsu Motegi might be asked to join as either trade minister or foreign minister, with former LDP chief Sadakazu Tanigaki taking the justice minister portfolio.

Among the women expected to win posts are Yuko Obuchi, former minister for affairs related to the declining birthrate.

Under the party’s new executive lineup, former LDP Vice President Tadamori Oshima, who has close contacts with New Komeito and the Democratic Party of Japan, is seen becoming chairman of the party’s General Council. Previously, former Finance Minister Fukushiro Nukaga was expected to assume the post.

Decisions for the LDP leadership posts will be formalized during a special meeting of the General Council on Tuesday. Abe’s Cabinet is expected to be launched the next day.

Abe told reporters during a visit to his constituency in Yamaguchi Prefecture on Saturday that the country’s “economy, foreign policy, education and reconstruction efforts are in an extremely difficult situation.”

“I would like to address all the issues immediately,” Abe said.

Among other appointments, Abe plans to tap former education minister Bunmei Ibuki as House of Representatives speaker, the sources said.

For Cabinet posts, the names of Gen Nakatani, a former Defense Agency head, and Takeshi Iwaya and Itsunori Onodera, both former senior vice foreign ministers, are being floated as candidates for defense minister.

Takumi Nemoto, a special adviser to Abe during his first stint as prime minister in 2006-2007, may be appointed reconstruction minister, with former senior vice trade minister Keiji Furuya being put in charge of the abduction issue, the sources said.