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Kan shuffles cabinet, offers Ozawa aides posts

Date Posted: 2010-09-23

Prime Minister Naoto Kan got down to business with his reshuffled cabinet ministers this week, tackling challenges of the strong yen, while his ruling party tapped some members close to his rival Ichiro Ozawa for such face-saving posts as senior vice ministers and lower house committee chiefs.

Kan replaced ten of his 17 cabinet ministers, maneuvering to strengthen his position both as Japan’s leader and to maintain solid control of the Democratic Party of Japan over his chief rival, Ichiro Ozawa. He is keeping a wary eye on the 200 DPJ Diet members who supported Ozawa’s leadership challenge. Kan picked up 206 votes to keep the Prime Minister portfolio.

He moved foreign minister Katsuya Okada to DPJ Secretary General and promoted Seiji Maehara to foreign minister from his previous post as Minister of Land, Infrastructure and Transport. They also agreed to promote policies under the initiative of politicians, rather than bureaucrats, and implement the growth strategy the government adopted in June. Kan, Maehara and Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa must also deal with the contentious Futenma issue, knowing that aggressively promoting the agreement to move the base to northern Okinawa is far from popular.

The reshuffled Cabinet of Prime Minister Naoto Kan drew a support rating of 64.4 percent in a Kyodo News survey released Saturday, reflecting voter satisfaction with Kan’s decision to choose ministers who’d backed away from Ozawa. The rating, up 9.7 percentage points from a survey conducted a week ago shortly before Kan defeated Ozawa in the Democratic Party of Japan leadership election, is the highest rating since Kan took over from Yukio Hatoyama in early June. The high for Kan's previous Cabinet was 61.5 percent soon after it was inaugurated.

The ruling Democratic Party of Japan, meanwhile, chose Katsumasa Suzuki, who heads a group of middle-ranking and junior DPJ members affiliated with Ozawa, as senior vice minister for internal affairs and communications, and Takeaki Matsumoto, who was promoted recently by Ozawa, as state secretary for foreign affairs, party sources said. The DPJ also recommended Kazuhiro Haraguchi, who backed Ozawa in the September 14th party leadership election and was replaced as internal affairs and communications minister Friday, as chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Internal Affairs and Communications, the sources said.

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