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2ND LD: DPJ gives nod to Ozawa becoming party's No. 2 on eve of Cabinet launch.

TOKYO, Sept. 15 Kyodo


Democratic Party of Japan Acting President Ichiro Ozawa on Tuesday became the party's new secretary general, second in line after President Yukio Hatoyama, as the party fine-tuned its plan to launch a new government Wednesday.

Ozawa's appointment to the key party post, proposed by Hatoyama, Japan's presumptive prime minister, was formally approved at a general meeting in Tokyo in the evening that brought together DPJ members from both the lower and upper houses.

Hatoyama is set to complete filling his Cabinet lineup later Tuesday after offering Shizuka Kamei, leader of the People's New Party that will form a coalition government with the DPJ, a Cabinet post overseeing postal and financial affairs, according to a senior DPJ official.

Hatoyama has also tapped Mizuho Fukushima, leader of the Social Democratic Party, another coalition partner, for the post of state minister in charge of consumer affairs, the declining birthrate, food safety and gender equality, and Fukushima accepted, the official said.

Sakihito Ozawa, chairman of the party's National Rallying and Canvassing Committee, will also likely join the Cabinet, according to sources close to the House of Representatives lawmaker.

Diet Affairs Committee Chairman Kenji Yamaoka will retain his post, Secretary General Ozawa told reporters in the evening.

Among other posts, Takahiro Yokomichi, former vice speaker of the House of Representatives, is slated to assume the post of lower house speaker as he has accepted the offer from Hatoyama. Yokomichi, 68, will be elected the new speaker of the chamber at a special parliamentary session to be convened Wednesday.

Hatoyama is set to be voted in as the next prime minister at the parliamentary session and will launch his Cabinet shortly afterward.

''It's a magnificent sight,'' the prime minister in waiting told the hundreds of DPJ lawmakers gathered at the general meeting. ''From now on, let's take politics back into the hands of the people, with our own hands.''

''We can't let our calls for a departure from reliance on bureaucrats end up being mere words,'' he added.

Ozawa, a former DPJ leader who will take charge of day-to-day party affairs and elections as the new No. 2 party executive, said at the meeting, ''As secretary general, I'm resolved to do my best with all my power to fulfill my duty.''

Before the event, the DPJ, which has long been Japan's largest opposition party, held a guidance and educational session for 143 lawmakers who won Diet seats for the first time in the Aug. 30 lower house election.

''I believe you will realize tomorrow and beyond that you won your seats in a historic period,'' Naoto Kan, another acting DPJ president, told the novices at the opening of the session. Kan is almost certain to get the post of minister in charge of the planned National Strategy Bureau, a policymaking bureau to lay out budgets and basic policies.

Kan said the election victory by the DPJ, which has called for greater power for elected officials over bureaucrats, signifies not just a transfer of power from the Liberal Democratic Party to the DPJ but also a shift in power from bureaucrats to politicians.

But Kan warned the novices not to let their guard down throughout their first four-year terms and said there is a need to produce tangible results in that period so they will not face a headwind in the next election.

PNP leader Kamei, 72, who heads a small party opposed to the privatization of postal services, had requested the post of internal affairs and communications minister, who has jurisdiction over postal services.

He received the offer of the newly created post of state minister in charge of postal and financial affairs a few hours after a PNP executive said that Kamei had been asked to assume the post of defense minister and had accepted it.

The SDP's Fukushima, 53, who is set to become consumer affairs minister, had initially sought a ministerial post in charge of employment issues but later switched to seeking the post of environment minister.

Promoting employment and protecting the environment are two issues championed by Fukushima's SDP but her small party also advocates greater consumer protection.

Hatoyama has already decided to appoint DPJ Secretary General Katsuya Okada as foreign minister and Hatoyama's top aide, Hirofumi Hirano, as chief Cabinet secretary.

DPJ Supreme Adviser Hirohisa Fujii, a 77-year-old former Finance Ministry bureaucrat and finance minister, is a strong candidate for finance minister although Ozawa has reportedly opposed his appointment.
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Publication:Japan Policy & Politics
Geographic Code:9JAPA
Date:Sep 21, 2009
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