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Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2007
Fukuda rewards key supporters
Top posts in LDP go to faction leaders
By MASAMI ITO
New Liberal Democratic Party President Yasuo Fukuda chose four veteran heavyweights for the party's top posts Monday, including education minister Bunmei Ibuki as secretary general, the LDP's No. 2 position.
Former Finance Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki is now policy chief as chairman of the LDP Policy Research Council, Toshihiro Nikai was retained as chairman of the General Council and former Secretary General Makoto Koga was chosen to head the election strategy committee.
The LDP traditionally has three top posts — secretary general, General Council chief and policy chief, but Fukuda created the fourth position to include Koga in hopes of strengthening the party ahead of the next Lower House election, which must be held within two years.
Ibuki, Tanigaki and Koga are currently leaders of LDP factions, while Nikai was a faction head until he became chair of the General Council under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. All four supported Fukuda during his presidential election campaign.
"I chose (the four) because they were the right people for the positions," Fukuda told reporters at LDP headquarters in Tokyo. "I am hoping that these competent (lawmakers) will be able to demonstrate their abilities to the fullest in their separate fields."
Fukuda added that choosing these executives shows he is hoping the LDP will come together and proceed as a unified party.
During a news conference held after the four were officially approved by the party's General Council, Ibuki, a 69-year old former bureaucrat from the Finance Ministry, said it is important for LDP members to work together as a "team during these difficult times.
"As 'Team LDP' . . . we will deal thoroughly with crisis management," Ibuki said. "We will do our best to regain the public's trust toward the party and work together for the benefit of the people."
Hit with money-related scandals and gaffes by Cabinet ministers and key lawmakers, the LDP-led ruling bloc experienced a crushing defeat in July's House of Councilors election. The coalition not only lost its majority in the Upper House, but the LDP also lost its position as the chamber's No. 1 party to the Democratic Party of Japan, the largest opposition party.
Ibuki stressed the need to consult with the DPJ during the current Diet session on such issues as the antiterrorism law and the pension system.
"We must hold discussions in the interest of the public and neither (the DPJ nor LDP) should vote for or against bills based on party interests," he said.
Tanigaki, a specialist in economic policy who ran against Abe in last year's LDP presidential election, did not rule out the possibility of an increase in the consumption tax to cover rising pension costs.
The LDP has not officially declared it favors a consumption tax hike, but experts have been saying an increase is unavoidable.
During last year's presidential race, Tanigaki advocated raising the consumption tax to pay for social security.
"We must hold discussions on how to ease public anxiety over the pension system," he said at Monday's news conference, but he avoided clarifying whether a tax hike is necessary.
Koga, as president of the Japan War-Bereaved Families Association, could clash with Fukuda, who has declared he will not visit war-linked Yasukuni Shrine, where 14 Class-A war criminals are enshrined along with the war dead.
However, Koga said Monday he is "facing the same direction" as Fukuda.