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Saturday, Sep. 29, 2012

Familiar faces reign as DPJ, LDP juggle executive lineups


By MASAMI ITO and NATSUKO FUKUE
Staff writers

Both the ruling Democratic Party of Japan and the Liberal Democratic Party appointed new executives Friday, cementing the leadership lineups that will guide them through the next Lower House election, which must be held by next summer.

News photo
Shinzo Abe

Most of the new executives for both parties are old faces that may leave voters wondering where to turn for fresh ideas. It thus remains unclear just how strong an impression the two parties will make on voters before the general election, which has the potential to dramatically transform the national political landscape.

Newly elected LDP President Shinzo Abe, who is returning to the helm after abandoning it in 2007 for health reasons, took the familiar path and handpicked close friends for key posts. Longtime ally Akira Amari, a former trade minister, will be his policy chief and another close friend, Yoshihide Suga, will be a deputy secretary general.

Abe also elevated some party heavyweights to ease the concerns of the party's other factions.

Former LDP Secretary General Hiroyuki Hosoda, a veteran lawmaker in the Machimura faction, was tapped as chairman of the party's general council, and former Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura, known for his strong connections in China, was selected as vice president.

"I've formed a dignified lineup to show that we are different from the DPJ," Abe boasted.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda meanwhile announced his new lineup to a meeting of DPJ lawmakers.

Upper House heavyweight Azuma Koshiishi will remain party secretary general, Environmental Minister Goshi Hosono will be the policy chief, and Finance Minister Jun Azumi will be deputy secretary general.

Noda hinted that he will reshuffle the Cabinet early next week in an apparent bid to boost the DPJ's flagging popularity and prevent disgruntled members from defecting before the next election.

"I will continue forming a lineup that will not only prepare us for the upcoming Diet session but also ensure sure that we take all possible measures to be ready for the next Lower and Upper House elections, which will be held one of these days," Noda said.

Turning back to the LDP , Abe also officially appointed former Defense Minister Shigeru, who is popular with voters, as secretary general. Ishiba competed against Abe in Wednesday's party presidential race.

Ishiba is known to be critical of the seniority hierarchy of the older LDP factions and is unpopular among the party's elders. But A be apparently tapped Ishiba for the role of right-hand man to boost the LDP's popularity and improve its election chances.

Abe also chose Ishiba ally Yasukazu Hamada, a former defense minister, as head of Diet affairs and former Environment Minister Ichiro Kaomoshita as a deputy secretary general.

Noda's reappointment of Koshiishi as DPJ secretary general is seen as a gesture to cement party unity, as Koshiishi was once regarded as a leader of the anti-Noda crowd within the DPJ.

Koshiishi's reappointment is also viewed as a signal by Noda that he will delay holding the general election as long as possible, as Koshiishi has vocally opposed an early dissolution of the Lower House while the DPJ's popularity among voters is at low ebb.

But his reappointment is likely to enrage the opposition camp, as Noda had promised to dissolve the chamber "soon" in exchange for their support for the unpopular hike in the consumption tax.

Noda also promoted Kazunori Yamanoi, deputy chair of the DP J Diet Affairs Committee, as head of Diet affairs, a difficult position in the divided Diet.

Your Party keeps chief

KYODO

Your Party leader Yoshimi Watanabe was re-elected Friday without opposition as president of the minor party.

A fifth-term Lower House member, he founded the party in August 2009 after leaving the then ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

Watanabe, 60, is expected to retain key party executives, including Kenji Eda as secretary general, party sources said.

The party has five members in the Lower House and 11 in the Upper House. Three of the Upper House members however have indicated they will leave the party to join Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto's new political party, called Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party).

Watanabe is a son of Michio Watanabe (1923-1995), who served as farm minister, finance minister, foreign minister and deputy prime minister from the 1970s to the 1990s.

The younger Watanabe served as the Cabinet minister in charge of financial affairs and regulatory reform between 2006 and 2009 under Prime Ministers Shinzo Abe and Yasuo Fukuda.



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