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Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2007

Otsuji to head LDP Upper House ranks

Staff writer

Bidding for a fresh start following its crushing defeat in the last election, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party officially picked four-term lawmaker Hidehisa Otsuji to head the party's Upper House caucus Monday.

News photo
Hidehisa Otsuji KYODO PHOTO

The 66-year-old was elected without opposition at a caucus meeting. Otsuji's predecessor, Mikio Aoki, had stepped down to take responsibility for the disastrous results of the July 29 House of Councilors election.

First elected to the Upper House in 1989, Otsuji served as health minister under Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi from September 2004 to October 2005.

The LDP "will face difficult situations from now on," Otsuji said at the caucus meeting. "In order to (overcome the difficult times), we must unite our hearts as one."

Undermined by ministerial scandals and the revelation of mishandled pension records, the LDP suffered a historic blow in the election. Not only did the LDP and coalition partner New Komeito lose their majority in the Upper House, the LDP lost its position as the top force in the chamber for the first time since the party was founded in 1955.

"With the DPJ playing the leading role in the Upper House — holding positions such as president of the house and chair of the steering committee — I would like to wait and see how (the DPJ) moves before deciding our (next move)," Otsuji told reporters after the meeting.

Otsuji, tasked with filling the remaining executive positions, named former Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Masaaki Yamazaki as secretary general of the LDP's Upper House caucus. The post was vacated when Toranosuke Katayama, a veteran lawmaker who served for almost 18 years, lost his Diet seat to a newcomer from the DPJ.

Regarding the extension of the antiterrorism law, which the DPJ has already expressed its intention to oppose, Otsuji stressed the need for thorough discussion between the two parties. The law, which expires Nov. 1, has enabled the Maritime Self-Defense Force to fuel multinational forces in the Indian Ocean engaged in counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan since 2001.

"I hope (the DPJ and the LDP) can be tenacious, holding thorough discussions and find an answer" to resolve their differences over the antiterrorism law, Otsuji said.

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The Japan Times

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