Reunifying DPJ to be administrative team's goal

Noda’s key first task: filling Edano’s shoes

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Staff Writers

Prime Minister-elect Yoshihiko Noda is looking to form an administrative team that satisfies loyalists of disgraced Democratic Party of Japan kingpin Ichiro Ozawa and his own allies, and one main task will be picking a right-hand man to fill the shoes of Yukio Edano, the departing chief Cabinet secretary.

Various names were floated Wednesday for that and other posts, among them former education minister Tatsuo Kawabata, a DPJ veteran who has also served as the party’s secretary general and Diet affairs chief.

Others rumored for the position include Katsuya Okada, another ex-DPJ secretary general, and Osamu Fujimura, a close Noda aide.

Kawabata, who was in the first DPJ Cabinet, under Yukio Hatoyama, is considered neutral when it comes to the divisive issue of Ozawa, who heads the party’s largest faction, with some 120 members.

Noda, who may form his Cabinet Friday, told fellow DPJ members during a Wednesday afternoon meeting: “The important thing is to create an environment so that everyone (in the DPJ) can fully exercise their ability.”

Okada’s name was also floated as a possible candidate for finance minister, while Fujimura may be appointed either education or health minister, Jiji Press said.

Noda was considering retaining Michihiko Kano, who ran against him in Monday’s presidential race, as agriculture minister or giving him a different Cabinet post, the news agency said, adding that former parliamentary secretary of defense Akihisa Nagashima may be named foreign minister.

Meanwhile, departing industry minister Banri Kaieda, who was defeated by Noda in Monday’s runoff for the DPJ presidency, is unlikely to stay in the new Cabinet, Jiji said.

On Wednesday, the party approved Noda’s appointment of Azuma Koshiishi, a close ally of Ozawa who chairs the party’s Upper House caucus, to serve as secretary general, the party’s No. 2 position, as well as former Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara as policy chief, and Hirofumi Hirano, a close aide to Hatoyama, as the party’s Diet affairs chief.

The appointment of the three executives indicated Noda wanted lawmakers from different internal groups to reunite the DPJ, which has been split between Ozawa’s supporters and his foes.

Although Ozawa’s party membership has been suspended as he awaits trial, he retains a powerful presence.

“There’s only one thing that is required of us. That is harmony within the party,” Koshiishi said.

It is the first time in DPJ history that an Upper House member has been chosen as secretary general, who is in charge of elections and controls the party’s money.

To answer concerns that the burden of election-related measures may be too heavy for Koshiishi, 75, former Diet affairs chief Shinji Tarutoko, a Lower House lawmaker, was appointed acting secretary general, apparently a new post to support Koshiishi. Tarutoko doesn’t belong to a party faction.

“I can’t do everything by myself. . . . I believe it is necessary to take firm measures to compensate for the handicap of my being an Upper House lawmaker,” said Koshiishi, who also has ties with former Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku, one of the core members of the anti-Ozawa camp.

Another big task for Noda’s group will be to cooperate with the opposition, led by the Liberal Democratic Party, so the budget and other legislation can see smooth passage through the divided Diet in which the DPJ lacks an Upper House majority.