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Thursday, Sept. 16, 2010
Kan shifts focus to Cabinet picks
Fresh off election victory, prime minister urged to hand some posts to Ozawa supporters
By ALEX MARTIN and KANAKO TAKAHARA
A day after his re-election as president of the Democratic Party of Japan, Prime Minister Naoto Kan got busy Wednesday choosing new lineups for his Cabinet and the DPJ leadership.
Attention is focused on whether Kan will grant his sole opponent in Tuesday's election, Ichiro Ozawa, or any of the power broker's allies important government or party posts.
As early as Wednesday night, Kan was trying to decide the new DPJ executive lineup, party sources said, adding he hopes to reshuffle his Cabinet on Friday.
Kan was expected to replace DPJ Secretary General Yukio Edano to take responsibility for the DPJ's losses in the July Upper House election, with education minister Tatsuo Kawabata floated as his most likely successor.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku is likely to retain his post, as are government revitalization minister Renho, DPJ Policy Research Committee Chairman Koichiro Gemba and Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda.
After consulting with lawmakers from both Ozawa's and his own camp, Kan met with Ozawa in the afternoon to discuss personnel issues and how to maintain party unity.
Because Kan's margin of victory was narrow among the party's Diet members, there is speculation that Ozawa and his followers could destabilize the administration unless Kan compromises on personnel choices.
With Kan scheduled to fly to the U.S. on Tuesday to attend a United Nations conference, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku said during a morning news conference that the lineups for both the Cabinet and party leadership were likely to be finalized by the end of the week.
"Based on common sense, it will be sometime within the week," he said.
Following morning talks with Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada, transport minister Seiji Maehara and Lower House Speaker Takahiro Yokomichi, Kan met with Ozawa's close ally, DPJ Upper House caucus leader Azuma Koshiishi, as well as former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama and Upper House President Takeo Nishioka.
Emerging from a meeting at party headquarters, DPJ veteran lawmaker Kozo Watanabe told reporters that he advised Kan to strive for party unity through personnel selections.
"I told him to forget about who was on who's side" during the election, he said.
DPJ Vice President Hajime Ishii said he told Kan to "also pick from the other side."