Junichiro Koizumi, the president of the Liberal Democratic Party, was elected Japan’s 56th prime minister in the Diet on Thursday and immediately inaugurated his new Cabinet.
The key foreign ministry portfolio went to Makiko Tanaka, a strong Koizumi supporter, while the finance portfolio went to another prominent backer of the new prime minister, Masajuro Shiokawa.
The first Koizumi Cabinet, which he has dubbed a “national salvation” government, includes five female ministers and three nonpoliticians — the largest number of each in the postwar era.
Koizumi meanwhile retained seven of the 17 ministers who served in the last Cabinet of Yoshiro Mori.
Other Koizumi appointments saw Heizo Takenaka, a professor of economics at Keio University, become a state minister in charge of economic and fiscal policy, and Gen Nakatani appointed to the post of Defense Agency chief.
Takenaka is a staunch advocate of economic structural reform.
Koizumi retained Hakuo Yanagisawa as state minister in charge of financial affairs and Takeo Hiranuma as minister of economy, trade and industry.
In an unexpected move, Koizumi appointed former transport minister Shiokawa, 79, as the new finance minister. Shiokawa served as Koizumi’s campaign chief during the LDP leadership race.
By appointing Tanaka as foreign minister, Koizumi apparently hopes to mend ties with China, which have been soured following the issuance of a visa to former Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui, along with other issues.
Tanaka’s father, the late Kakuei Tanaka, was a former prime minister and charismatic LDP heavyweight who normalized diplomatic ties between Japan and China in 1972.
Tanaka is popular with the general public, often topping opinion polls on whom people want as the nation’s prime minister.
Tanaka has become Japan’s first female foreign minister.
Earlier in the day, Koizumi, who triumphed in Tuesday’s LDP presidential election, was elected prime minister in the Diet on the back of a majority held by the tripartite coalition — the LDP, New Komeito and the New Conservative Party.
Koizumi won 287 votes in the 480-seat Lower House, compared with 127 for his closest rival, Yukio Hatoyama. Hatoyama leads the largest opposition party, the Democratic Party of Japan.
In the 252-seat Upper House, Koizumi garnered 138 votes, compared with 59 votes cast for Hatoyama.
His election followed the en masse resignation of Yoshiro Mori’s Cabinet earlier the same day.
Although the largest LDP faction led by former Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto, who lost the presidential race to Koizumi, had four posts in the last Mori Cabinet, it claimed only two in the Koizumi Cabinet.
The second-largest faction, which is led by Mori and used to number Koizumi among its members, claimed three positions.
The remaining factions gained one post each, with the exception of that let by Yohei Kono, which got none.
Kono’s faction was given one of the key posts in the party, with Taro Aso being given the post of policy affairs chief.
LDP’s coalition partners — New Komeito and New Conservative Party — were given one Cabinet post each, as was the case under Mori.
Koizumi’s eagerness to appoint experienced nonpoliticians to Cabinet posts is evident from his list of appointees.
Professor Takenaka, who served as an adviser to Mori, was named state minister in charge of economic and fiscal policy.
Atsuko Toyama, a former director general of the Cultural Affairs Agency, was appointed as education minister. A former official of the education ministry, Toyama was once an ambassador to Turkey and a director of the National Museum of Western Art.
Among the first-timers to join the Cabinet are former television reporter Nobuteru Ishihara, who became state minister in charge of administrative reform, and Nakatani, a former Ground Self-Defense Force officer, who became Defense Agency chief.
Jin Murai, a member of the Hashimoto faction, was appointed head of the National Public Safety Commission while Tsutomu Takebe, a native of Hokkaido, took the post of farm minister.
Other Cabinet ministers include Mayumi Moriyama, former chief cabinet secretary, as justice minister and Koizumi’s close aide Koji Omi as state minister in charge of science and technology policy, Okinawa and affairs related to the northern territories.
All the candidates reportedly received direct calls from Koizumi or his aides, rather than receiving information through their faction leaders as has been the case in the past.
While he appointed many new faces, Koizumi also retained seven ministers, including Yanagisawa and Hiranuma.
Among the five other ministers retained are Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda — the prime minister’s right hand man — and Chikage Ogi, NCP leader and the minister of land, infrastructure and transport.
New Komeito’s Chikara Sakaguchi was also retained as the minister of health, labor and welfare. Toranosuke Katayama, an LDP Upper House member, was retained as minister of public management, home affairs, posts and telecommunications, ahead of the Upper House election in July.
Yoriko Kawaguchi, a former executive of major brewery Suntory Ltd. and a nonpolitician minister in the last Mori Cabinet, was reappointed as environment minister.
Hiranuma, who had turned Koizumi’s offer to take post as LDP’s policy chief, stays on as minister of economy, trade and industry.
Meanwhile, Mori told the last gathering of Cabinet ministers that he decided to resign because the government needs to tackle various issues and recover public trust under a new Cabinet.
“I will make effort as a politician (from now on) so that the LDP will be reborn and the coalition win support from the public under a new prime minister,” Mori said.
Mori remained in the helm for 387 days – the 18th longest reign among 24 prime ministers under the postwar Constitution.
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