Fresh off his re-election as president of the Democratic Party of Japan, Prime Minister Naoto Kan reshuffled his 3-month-old Cabinet on Friday, replacing 10 of the 17 Cabinet posts and naming few people loyal to party bigwig Ichiro Ozawa.
Before Tuesday’s DPJ presidential race in which Ozawa, a former party secretary general, lost to Kan, the two had agreed to foster party unity regardless of the outcome, but many of the key roles in the government and the DPJ executive lineup went to people known to be critical of Ozawa.
Highlights of the lineup are the move for Seiji Maehara from transport minister to foreign minister and the naming of non-Diet member Yoshihiro Katayama, former Tottori governor and currently a Keio University professor, as internal affairs minister.
Maehara’s appointment hit a snag because he is viewed as a “China hawk,” party sources said, adding that some members were concerned it could further aggravate Tokyo’s ties with Beijing.
As transport minister, who oversees the Japan Coast Guard, Maehara was responsible for the recent arrest of the skipper of a Chinese fishing boat that collided with coast guard patrol vessels near the disputed Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.
Other new faces include Sumio Mabuchi as transport minister, Ritsuo Hosokawa as health minister; Michihiko Kano as agriculture minister and Ryu Matsumoto as environment minister. They are all DPJ Lower House members.
From the party’s Upper House caucus, Minoru Yanagida was named justice minister and Tomiko Okazaki was made chairman of the National Public Safety Commission.
Meanwhile, Kan retained his right-hand man, Yoshito Sengoku, as chief Cabinet secretary; Toshimi Kitazawa as defense minister; Renho as government revitalization minister; Yoshihiko Noda as finance minister; and Shozaburo Jimi as financial services minister. Renho now doubles as minister in charge of civil service reform.
Although many in the new lineup have distanced themselves from the Ozawa camp, Banri Kaieda, who was named economic and fiscal policy minister, has good ties with Ozawa. So do Akihiro Ohata, a Lower House member who was appointed trade minister, and Yoshiaki Takaki, another Lower House member who was named education minister.
Kan’s reshuffled Cabinet was formally launched later in the day following an attestation ceremony at the Imperial Palace.
Before reshuffling his Cabinet, Kan in the morning named new DPJ executives, giving the post of secretary general — the DPJ’s No. 2 position — to Katsuya Okada, who previously held the post of foreign minister.
The appointment of Okada, who sports a “clean image” and has been critical of Ozawa over his political funds scandal, is thought to signal Kan’s desire to put his own stamp on the politic landscape and reduce the influence of Ozawa, who leads the biggest intraparty group.
Ozawa fought a fierce battle against Kan as his sole challenger in the party presidential race, raising fears of an internal split.
The focus of the personnel reshuffle, therefore, was on how Kan would treat Ozawa and people loyal to him to achieve party unity.
In fact, Kan on Thursday night offered posts as deputy party president — a largely nominal post — to two people in the Ozawa camp — Ozawa himself and Azuma Koshiishi, the leader of the DPJ’s Upper House caucus. But both declined Kan’s offer, party sources said.
It remains to be seen if Kan’s new picks will manage to mend ties with the Ozawa camp. Political observers say, in the worst case, there is still the threat of an internal split.
As for other senior DPJ posts, Koichiro Genba retained his post as policy chief. Yoshio Hachiro, who was a key member of Kan’s election campaign in Tuesday’s presidential race, was appointed Diet affairs chief.
“With the presidential election over, I promise to create a Cabinet of all 412 (DPJ) lawmakers of the Lower and Upper houses as well as coalition partner Kokumin Shinto (People’s New Party),” Kan said during a gathering of party Diet members.
Okada, meanwhile, said he will aim for fair and transparent management of the party.
“I would like to manage the party so that individual lawmakers can freely demonstrate their ability,” he said. “I would like to run the party based on fairness and transparency.”
Despite widespread rumors that the Ozawa camp was critical of Okada’s appointment, no opposition was voiced Friday.
“I would like to support the prime minister and the new administration with everyone else,” said Mieko Tanaka, a rookie DPJ lawmaker dubbed one of the “Ozawa girls” handpicked by the power broker to run for the Diet.
“I hope Mr. Okada will make the best of his experience and lead the party,” she said.
Criticism appeared to have shifted to the appointment of Okada’s predecessor, Yukio Edano, who was rapped for staying on as deputy secretary general after the party suffered a major defeat in the July Upper House election.
“Some may feel uncomfortable” about Edano’s appointment, said DPJ senior lawmaker Hajime Ishii, although he added it is up to Okada to pick who he wants to work with.
|(Formed Sept. 17, 2010)||
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