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Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2006
Abe's LDP exec picks told to gear up for '07 Diet poll
Liberal Democratic Party President Shinzo Abe appointed experienced politicians to top party posts Monday, aiming to boost cooperation among junior and veteran LDP lawmakers to prepare for next summer's Upper House election.
The House of Councilors race is expected to pose a serious challenge to the LDP.
Abe appointed longtime supporter and seasoned hand Hidenao Nakagawa as secretary general, a post whose main task is to craft campaign strategies to win more seats than the Democratic Party of Japan.
The fate of Abe's administration may hinge on how many seats the LDP can keep or gain in the election, experts say.
"We have a crucial battle (next summer) and I want to put everything I have into my work," Nakagawa told a party meeting after the appointment.
Later at a news conference, Nakagawa showed his willingness to fight the DPJ and its political heavyweight leader Ichiro Ozawa, who once was a member of the LDP before bolting to create a new party in the mid-1990s.
Nakagawa said he wants to show the public a real battle between an Abe-run LDP and the Ozawa-led DPJ ahead of the 2007 Upper House election and by-elections in Osaka and Kanagawa Prefecture next month.
"We want to discuss who would make the best leader for Japan," Nakagawa said, welcoming the chance to face off in weekly debate with Ozawa during the Diet session.
Abe picked Yuya Niwa, a veteran politician and former health minister, as chairman of the LDP Executive Council, the party's top decision-making body.
"We want to back up young party leader Abe by uniting all generations," Niwa told the meeting.
Niwa told reporters he has also been tasked with formulating pension reform, a key focus of the new administration under Abe, by using his expertise in social welfare. The Diet is set to vote Abe in as prime minister Tuesday and he will name his Cabinet immediately afterward.
Abe named agriculture minister Shoichi Nakagawa head of the LDP Policy Research Council.
The politician pledged to the gathering he will do his best to achieve Abe's policy goals and make "cooperation" his motto in his new post.
On amending the pacifist Constitution, an Abe policy pillar, the newly appointed LDP executives expressed their willingness to push the agenda forward.
Policy Research Council chief Nakagawa said he wants to actively solicit public support.
"I agree with the idea of making the Constitution (fit in with the) 21st century," he told reporters, echoing Abe's LDP presidential campaign pledge.
Meanwhile, Secretary General Nakagawa said the LDP should move forward with the revision by cooperating with the DPJ.
The first thing they have to do is to get a bill passed so a national referendum to amend the Constitution can be held.
Abe will become the youngest postwar prime minister when he is voted in at an extraordinary Diet session Tuesday to succeed Junichiro Koizumi.
He will announce his Cabinet lineup in the afternoon.