Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori and top aides on Wednesday stepped up efforts to make key placements ahead of next week’s Cabinet reshuffle, with coalition partner New Komeito likely to receive the health and welfare portfolio.
Sources close to the prime minister said Mori was hoping that key New Komeito figure Chikara Sakaguchi would accept the position, which is considered a pivotal one as Diet deliberations in the fall are likely to focus on social welfare.
In addition, it was basically agreed that Hidenao Nakagawa, who has already been informally named chief Cabinet secretary and minister in charge of information technology issues, would also become head of the Okinawa Development Agency.
Although Mori had initially hoped to appoint a separate minister for the IT portfolio, the idea was scrapped because it would contradict the government’s pledge to streamline bureaucracy.
Sources within Mori’s Liberal Democratic Party said it was basically agreed that the four major party factions would get two slots apiece in the 18-post Cabinet.
The factions, in order of size, belong to the late Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi, Mori, former LDP Secretary General Koichi Kato, and one led jointly by Takami Eto, former director general of the Management and Coordination Agency, and policy chief Shizuka Kamei.
Three other factions, including one headed by former policy affairs head Taku Yamasaki, would receive one minister each, while two portfolios would be given to LDP House of Councilors members.
Coalition partners New Komeito and the New Conservative Party would likely get one each, according to the sources.
Mori also hopes to make three appointments under the “prime minister’s discretionary bracket,” which — in theory — allows him to make his own choice without the need to strike factional balances.
But because continuing Finance Minister Kiichi Miyazawa falls under this bracket and because some LDP officials are strongly suggesting New Komeito collect a post from this bracket, sources said there was little leeway for Mori to make any unique appointments.
Yasuo Fukuda of the House of Representatives and Masaaki Yamazaki of the Upper House, both members of the Mori faction, are seen as leading contenders for the two deputy chief Cabinet secretary posts.