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In a move greeted coolly by his own party, Democratic Party of Japan President Yukio Hatoyama on Tuesday named Vice President Kansei Nakano as secretary general.

The unexpected appointment, approved later at the party’s convention, came a day after Hatoyama won a close runoff with former Secretary General Naoto Kan for leadership of Japan’s largest opposition party.

“I believed it was essential to strengthen solidarity within the party,” Hatoyama explained to reporters, adding that he expects his new No. 2 to smoothen internal friction that surfaced during the election.

Nakano, 61, denied the post was a reward for backing Hatoyama in the presidential race. “I am willing to support Mr. Hatoyama so that he can take bold actions,” he said.

Nakano, a former member of the now-defunct Democratic Socialist Party, initially intended to run in the election but gave up at the last minute to back Hatoyama. His sudden withdrawal prompted accusations that he was eyeing a key post in a new Hatoyama leadership.

The votes from Nakano’s faction and from lay supporters of other former DSP members are widely believed to have tipped the close election in Hatoyama’s favor.

Katsuya Okada, the party’s policy affairs chief, was widely expected to be named secretary general. But Nakano’s supporters reportedly opposed the move.

Hatoyama therefore asked Nakano on Monday night to recommend someone from his own group, an aide to Hatoyama said on condition of anonymity.

Party members have been critical of the move.

“(The decision) could be seen as a reward-oriented appointment,” said Shigefume Matsuzawa, who also intended to run for the presidency.

“The leadership of Hatoyama and Kan would have been better,” another party member said.

Hatoyama met with Nakano later in the day to discuss other key party posts.

Okada is seen as a strong candidate for deputy secretary general, while Yoshihiko Noda, who placed third in the presidential election, has been asked to take his place as policy affairs chief.

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