Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto was re-elected president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party on Sept. 8 and immediately began working on a reshuffle of top party and Cabinet posts.
Hashimoto became the first LDP president to win a second term in 13 years when no other candidates emerged to challenge him during the party’s registry of candidates for the election.
“We should make efforts to bring about a bright future for the 21st century by comprehensively reforming the current 50-year-old systems of our society, even though changes in traditional systems are often accompanied by pain,” Hashimoto told reporters during a press conference after winning his second term.
He said the next three years would be “a period for intensive reforms,” adding that administrative, fiscal and other reforms would remain top policy priorities in his new administration. “We should not postpone the reforms because of the pain. … I’m determined to run in front of people to do my best to accomplish them,” he said.
Hashimoto, who has been LDP president since September 1995, is expected to reshuffle the party leadership and the Cabinet immediately after his two-year presidency is officially endorsed at a general meeting of LDP lawmakers scheduled for Sept. 11. He declined to comment directly on the naming of new party executives and ministers, but said he will choose those who he considers best able to carry out the reforms.
Hashimoto also did not say whether he would retain the current lineup of top party executives — Koichi Kato, secretary general; Yoshiro Mori, chairman of the Executive Council; and policy chief Taku Yamasaki. However, later in the day, former Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa, head of the LDP faction to which Kato belongs, told reporters that Kato said he believes he will remain in the party No. 2 post.
In an ominous development for Mori and Yamasaki, an oil wholesaler now on trial for income tax evasion and fraud told a Tokyo news conference that he gave millions of yen to the two LDP leaders. The wholesaler, Junichi Izui, also said he gave funds to Keizo Obuchi, who has been tipped as the next foreign minister.
Hashimoto told his postelection news conference that he intends to maintain the current political alliance with the Social Democratic Party and New Party Sakigake, a position urged by the three executives. Hashimoto also said he will seek cooperation from the opposition to better deal with policy-related matters. He is planning to visit SDP head Takako Doi and Sakigake head Akiko Domoto this afternoon to pursue the continuation of cooperative ties between the parties.
Asked about ongoing intraparty strife between those supporting the tripartite alliance and others seeking a conservative union with Shinshinto, the largest opposition force, Hashimoto said the LDP is a political party open enough to allow its members to make free discussion. “I believe that once things are decided, LDP members will unite, recognizing well the LDP’s responsibility as the ruling party,” Hashimoto said.
Concerning new Cabinet members, Kanezo Muraoka, chairman of the LDP Diet Affairs Steering Committee, is expected to replace Seiroku Kajiyama as chief Cabinet secretary; Obuchi is expected to assume the post of foreign minister; and Finance Minister Hiroshi Mitsuzuka is likely to remain in his post, according to sources.
It remains to be seen if Hashimoto gives Koko Sato, chief of the LDP panel responsible for administrative reform, a ministerial post. He was once convicted of bribe-taking. Sato, 69, who was arrested in 1976 on suspicion of receiving 2 million yen from All Nippon Airways in connection with the Lockheed scandal, has never held a ministerial post despite 30 years of service in the Diet.