Incoming Prime Minister Shinzo Abe tapped two high-profile female lawmakers Tuesday for the top executive posts of the Liberal Democratic Party in an apparent effort to garner the support of female voters ahead of the Upper House election next summer.
The LDP named Seiko Noda, a former postal minister, as General Council chairwoman, and Sanae Takaichi as Policy Research Council chief.
Takaichi, a former minister tasked with handling issues related to the low birthrate, is the first woman to serve as the LDP’s policy chief. The staunch conservative is opposed to giving long-term foreign residents local suffrage and has repeatedly visited the war-related Yasukuni Shrine.
Abe, set to become prime minister Wednesday, told reporters he chose Noda and Takaichi for the key party posts to demonstrate to voters the LDP’s new outlook and to prepare for the Upper House election.
“Voters still have lingering questions over whether the LDP has changed,” Abe told reporters Tuesday. “By appointing the two, I think we can show it has.”
Abe noted that in the past, the top three LDP executives — president, policy chief and General Council chairman — were veteran lawmakers and faction heads.
He will retain Shigeru Ishiba as secretary general. Ishiba was a rival in the LDP presidential election in September, and secured the strongest support among rank-and-file party members.
Fukushiro Nukaga, a party heavyweight and head of the second-largest faction, was initially rumored to be a candidate for the General Council, which is nominally the party’s highest decision-making body.
But Abe apparently put priority on boosting party popularity ahead the Upper House poll by tapping female lawmakers. During campaigning for the Dec. 16 general election, the LDP pledged to increase the number of women “in leadership positions in every area” of society to more than 30 percent by 2020.
Noda, 52, has long been regarded as a pioneering female politician in male-dominated Japanese politics. She caused a stir when she gave birth at age 50 through artificial insemination using an egg from a third party in the United States.
Meanwhile, Takaichi, 51, a long-time supporter of Abe, is a conservative who has emphasized traditional family values and opposed revising the law to allow women to keep their family name after marriage.
In an article she contributed to the monthly magazine Seiron in April 2010, Takaichi argued that allowing foreign residents, in particular Korean and Chinese nationals, to vote in local elections could cause serious national security problems.
With voting rights, foreigners could exert significant political influence over local governments and assemblies, thereby influencing national security affairs, Takaichi argued in the article.
Meanwhile, Abe will appoint Fumio Kishida as foreign minister and Toshimitsu Motegi as industry minister supervising energy policy, sources close to Abe said Tuesday.
Kishida, 55, a former LDP Diet affairs chief, was state minister in charge of issues related to Okinawa and the Russian-held islands in Abe’s previous government, which lasted for a year from September 2006, and the following government led by former Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda.
Abe decided to give Kishida the post in the hope that his experience will help in achieving progress on the relocation of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma within Okinawa and in the long-standing territorial dispute with Russia, the sources said.
As trade minister, Motegi, 57, a former financial services minister, will deal with the issues including whether to continue relying on nuclear energy and participating in the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade talks.
Information from Kyodo added