A majority of House of Representatives members voted to have Mori — president of the Liberal Democratic Party — keep the prime ministership as the Diet convened for a three-day special session. Mori was also re-elected prime minister by the House of Councilors.

Mori’s re-election was supported by the three ruling parties–the LDP, New Komeito and the New Conservative Party– which together hold a majority in both chambers of the legislature, despite the triumvirate’s setback in the June 25 general election.

Cabinet lineup(Formed July 4, 2000)
Prime minister Yoshiro Mori
Justice minister Okiharu Yasuoka
Foreign minister Yohei Kono
Finance minister Kiichi Miyazawa
Education minister, Science and Technology Agency director general Tadamori Oshima
Health and welfare minister Yuji Tsushima
Agriculture, forestry and fisheries minister Yoichi Tani
International trade and industry minister Takeo Hiranuma
Transport minister, Hokkaido Development Agency director general Hajime Morita
Posts and telecommunications minister Kozo Hirabayashi
Labor minister Yoshio Yoshikawa
Construction minister, National Land Agency director general Chikage Ogi
Home affairs minister Mamoru Nishida
Chief Cabinet secretary, Okinawa Development Agency director general Hidenao Nakagawa
Management and Coordination Agency director general Kunihiro Tsuzuki
Defense Agency director general Kazuo Torashima
Economic Planning Agency director general Taichi Sakaiya
Environment Agency director general Yoriko Kawaguchi
Financial Reconstruction Commission chairman Kimitaka Kuze

With official re-election in hand, Mori was set to call his Cabinet appointees to the Prime Minister’s Official Residence in the evening, with a ceremony at the Imperial Palace to follow.

With a series of high-profile Group of Eight meetings scheduled to begin Saturday with the gathering of finance ministers in Fukuoka and to culminate with the July 21-23 summit, Mori had no plan to change the holders of the finance and foreign affairs posts.

To convey that the nation’s economic policy would remain on the same track, he was also expected to reappoint Economic Planning Agency chief Taichi Sakaiya.

Management and Coordination Agency chief Kunihiro Tsuzuki of New Komeito was also expected to be reappointed, given that a major regrouping of government ministries and agencies is expected to take place Jan. 1.

In an effort to show leadership in the appointment process, Mori called on Suntory Ltd. Managing Director Yoriko Kawaguchi to join the Cabinet.

But the appointment process for the remaining Cabinet ministers was not so transparent, as much of the decision-making was done behind closed doors, with only LDP Secretary General Hiromu Nonaka and Hidenao Nakagawa, Mori’s choice for the pivotal role of chief Cabinet secretary, in attendance.

The secrecy that shrouded the usually noisy — and effectively open — nomination and selection process irked many senior LDP officials as well as party allies.

Many lawmakers who had been informally notified of their likely inclusion in the Cabinet did not know which government ministry or agency they were to be asked to serve in until Tuesday morning.

NCP chief Chikage Ogi was among these likely new ministers who expressed dissatisfaction with the selection process.

Ogi, who had expected to become either the education or labor minister, early Tuesday discovered that she would most likely be offered the construction portfolio — a position for which Mori suddenly and desperately needed a “clean” person following the bribery scandal that broke last week involving former Construction Minister Eiichi Nakao.

The sudden arrest of Nakao, who failed in his re-election bid in the June 25 election, and the opposition camp’s clamoring for Diet debate on the fiasco forced Mori and Nonaka to conduct thorough background checks on Cabinet hopefuls.

The formal start of Mori’s second Cabinet was marred by Diet problems as well, as the ruling and opposition camps locked horns over key personnel appointments in the Lower House.

The ruling bloc nominated Tamisuke Watanuki, a veteran LDP lawmaker, as Lower House speaker. By custom, the vice speaker of the chamber is usually nominated from the opposition camp and both are traditionally voted in unanimously.

But the ruling coalition voted for Kozo Watanabe, a member of the minor party Mushozoku-no-kai, as Lower House vice speaker, instead of Hajime Ishii, a senior member of the Democratic Party of Japan, who had been nominated by the opposition.

The opposition camp, in retaliation, cast blank votes for Lower House speaker.

“The ruling coalition is resorting to force with its overwhelming strength. We cannot tolerate such an outrage caused by a personal grudge harbored by Nonaka,” DPJ President Yukio Hatoyama said.

Nonaka is widely believed to be strongly against Ishii’s appointment, who has long harassed Nonaka with persistent questions during past Diet deliberations.

Aoki sticks with story

Outgoing Chief Cabinet Secretary Mikio Aoki remained firm Tuesday in sticking to his version of the story regarding the collapse of late Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi and the subsequent transfer of power to Yoshiro Mori.

Aoki, in giving his final news conference as top government spokesman before a Cabinet reshuffle later in the day, said he was “kept on the run” 24 hours a day for the 274 days he held the post, citing such emergency situations as Obuchi’s collapse from a stroke and the March eruption of Hokkaido’s Mount Usu.

As for doubts over whether Obuchi was able to clearly say that he wanted Aoki to serve as acting prime minister as the chief Cabinet secretary maintained, Aoki said, “What I have said is correct, from beginning to end.”

According to Aoki, Obuchi was taken to Juntendo University Hospital from the living quarters of the Prime Minister’s Official Residence in the early hours of April 2.

When Aoki visited him in the hospital later that day, he says that he was told to “take care of everything,” which he interpreted as an order to serve as acting prime minister.

Opposition lawmakers later questioned the remark and Aoki’s description of the sequence of events, pointing to the fact that Obuchi slipped into a coma soon after Aoki’s visit.

Aoki and other top Liberal Democratic Party leaders later met and agreed that the party leadership should be transferred into the hands of then Secretary General Mori, who was later elected prime minister by the Diet.

21st Century Club

Eight independents in the House of Representatives on Tuesday formed a parliamentary group called the 21st Century Club.

The group comprises Kozo Yamamoto, Yoshio Udagawa, Yoko Kamikawa, Motohiko Kondo, Takuya Hirai, Kensaku Morita, Seigo Kitamura and Yasushi Kaneko. Yamamoto leads the group, they said.

Yamamoto and Morita were elected to the Lower House for their third and second terms, respectively, in the June 25 general election, while the six others were elected for the first time.