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Japan’s in limbo as Hatoyama has reins until Tuesday

Date Posted: 2010-06-07

The Japanese Diet elected Naoto Kan to be Prime Minister on Friday, but Yukio Hatoyama’s still more-or-less the country’s leader until Kan solidifies his Cabinet and is formally installed on Tuesday.

Kan’s efforts now are putting together a Cabinet, choosing to first set Ichiro Ozawa’s recommendations of making decisions by Friday night on a Cabinet lineup aside. “I’d like to have a bit of time to hear a range of opinions and sort out my thoughts,” Kan said. Ozawa resigned his post as Democratic Party of Japan Secretary General at the same time Hatoyama resigned as Prime Minister.

The way the law reads, though, Hatoyama remains in the official residence and is required to serve until Kan’s Cabinet is in place. The slate of ministers in Hatoyama’s Cabinet would make any governmental decisions until Kan’s Cabinet is in place and Kan takes office. The Prime Minister-elect is using DPJ headquarters as his office, and is staying in a Tokyo hotel.

Kan’s been busy through the weekend, studying candidates for various ministerial posts and making some appointments. He’s already decided to reappoint Katsuya Okada as Foreign Minister, Toshimi Kitazawa as Defense Minister, and Akira Nagatsuma as Health, Labor and Welfare Minister when his Cabinet moves into gear Tuesday.

The new Prime Minister has chosen to promote Yoshihiko Noda to Finance Minister. He’d previously served as senior vice finance minister under Kan. Renho, a television-anchorwoman-turned-politician has been selected as Consumer Affairs Minister. Her predecessor, Mizuho Fukushima, was fired from the post in late May for refusing to follow then Prime Minister Hatoyama’s request she sign a Cabinet resolution on the future of Futenma Marine Corps Air Station in Okinawa.

Yoshito Sengoku has been chosen the new Cabinet’s Chief secretary, and Yukio Edano picked to be Secretary General of the Democratic Party of Japan. He replaces Ichiro Ozawa. Edano is a longtime Kan ally, and one who has criticized Ozawa in the past. Sengoku’s replacement as State Minister in charge of designing national strategy will be Satoshi Arai, a DPJ member of the lower house.

Sources say Kan is contemplating Hirotaka Akamatsu, the Farm Minister. Akamatsu has been criticized for his failure to stop the spread of hoof-and-mouth disease in livestock herds in Miyazaki Prefecture.

Kan’s Cabinet picks, together with a general sense of excitement about change in the central government, has given the DPJ a hefty boost as it prepares for the July 11th Upper House of Councilors election. As his predecessor, Yukio Hatoyama, left office, his Cabinet’s poll ranking was only 19.1%, while fresh weekend polls show 57.6% of respondents think Kan will do a good job.

The DPJ has scored gains, too, jumping 15.6 points to a 36.1% rating. The opposition Liberal Democratic Party’s up to 20.8%. More importantly, pollsters say, the DPJ has regained support from unaffiliated voters, with their vote support rising 9.7 points to 13.4%.

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