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Transport chief Nikai expert in LP's Diet affairs.

TOKYO, Oct. 5 Kyodo

Toshihiro Nikai, appointed to the post of transport minister from the Liberal Party (LP), is an expert on Diet affairs and experienced in transport issues.

Nikai, who concurrently heads the Hokkaido Development Agency, is the only cabinet member from the LP in the new tripartite coalition among the LP, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and the New Komeito party.

He has been an active campaigner for the three-way coalition as chairman of the LP's Diet affairs committee, and has close relationships with his counterparts in the LDP and New Komeito -- Makoto Koga and Shozo Kusakawa.

Nikai is also known as one of LP leader Ichiro Ozawa's closest confidants. He followed Ozawa when the latter left the LDP to launch the Shinseito party in 1993, and again when Ozawa established the New Frontier Party and then the LP.

Nikai, 60, served as parliamentary vice transport minister in the cabinets of Prime Ministers Toshiki Kaifu and Morihiro Hosokawa.

People who know Nikai personally say he has a knack for understanding what others are feeling and is good at back-room negotiations.

He has been elected to the House of Representatives five times from Wakayama Prefecture.
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Publication:Japan Policy & Politics
Date:Oct 11, 1999
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