New Democratic Party of Japan President Yukio Hatoyama officially launched his executive lineup Tuesday, with Katsuya Okada, his rival in the party leadership race, as secretary general and former DPJ boss Ichiro Ozawa as deputy party chief in charge of election strategy.

Retaining Ozawa in a key post despite his May 11 exit due to the indictment of his top aide in a shady political donations scandal has already drawn criticism not only from the ruling camp but also from some members within the DPJ.

However, during a meeting of DPJ lawmakers from both chambers of the Diet, Hatoyama stressed party unity will be the priority in the upcoming Lower House election. Given the limited amount of time before the election must be held, he added that he will keep personnel changes to a minimum.

“We only have a few months to go before the general election,” Hatoyama said. “Large movements within the party are undesirable (under such conditions).”

Hatoyama named Tenzo Okumura as new chairman of public relations, and in turn appointed Yoshihiko Noda, the previous public relations chief, to work under Okada as vice secretary general.

Hatoyama retained Naoto Kan and Azuma Koshiishi in their posts as “acting presidents,” meaning they are effectively the party’s deputy chiefs.

It is the second time that Okada has been appointed secretary general.

“I worked under Naoto Kan the last time I was secretary general,” Okada said during the meeting, adding that he believes the role entails fully supporting the president.

“However, this time we have three heavyweights, including Ozawa, as acting presidents . . . I wonder if I’d be able to adequately support them all,” Okada joked, drawing applause and laughter from the assembled lawmakers.

Although Okada lost to Hatoyama by a relatively large margin in Saturday’s election, he had higher ratings in national opinion polls. This has prompted questions of whether the party will be able to topple the Liberal Democratic Party-New Komeito ruling bloc with Hatoyama at the helm.

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