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Veteran lawmaker Nikai to chair LDP’s General Council

Kyodo

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe plans to appoint veteran Lower House member Toshihiro Nikai as chairman of the LDP’s General Council, the party’s top decision-making body, administration sources said Monday.

Abe is also making arrangements to keep Hakubun Shimomura as education minister and give a ministerial post to LDP Lower House member Yuko Obuchi, 40, the daughter of late former Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi, when he reshuffles his Cabinet and LDP executive lineup Wednesday.

Abe has been working on the lineup, including a replacement for LDP Secretary-General Shigeru Ishiba in his first Cabinet reshuffle since returning to power in December 2012.

Ishiba will likely get a ministerial post after an unusually public tussle with the prime minister.

On Friday, Ishiba indicated he will accept whatever position he is offered after declining to take up a planned new Cabinet post in charge of national security legislation, purportedly due to his differences with Abe over security policy.

In addition to the security legislation portfolio, Abe plans to create a new post for revitalizing regional economies.

“We would like to step up our work on the development of regional economies, and it is also important to develop national security legislation,” Abe said Monday, referring to the two new posts.

But Abe did not mention names, and changes in the LDP lineup are not expected to be finalized until Wednesday.

Nikai, who currently chairs the Lower House Budget Committee, served as chairman of the LDP’s General Council between 2007 and 2008 under Abe. The 75-year-old Nikai has also headed the transport and trade ministries.

Obuchi, popular with voters, became the youngest postwar minister at the age of 34 when she was appointed state minister in charge of the declining birthrate in September 2008. She held that position until September 2009 under Prime Minister Taro Aso.

Abe has said he wants to see the number of women in leadership positions rise in both the public and private sectors, and he is hopeful Obuchi will accept his offer of a ministerial post.

There was also speculation that Obuchi was going to be offered one of the three LDP executive posts — secretary-general, chair of the Policy Research Council or chair of the General Council — as she already has experience as a Cabinet minister.