Hatoyama Officially becomes PM, Names Cabinet

As expected, Yukio Hatoyama officially became Japan’s 93rd Prime Minister yesterday and just the second since the long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party was founded not to belong to it. Just as importantly, after roughly two weeks of managing to keep the press at bay and leaking little, if anything about the make-up of the new Cabinet, the new Prime Minister formed the first Cabinet since 1955 to contain no LDP members.

In fact, as promised, the new Cabinet is made up entirely of elected representatives. Every portfolio went to a DPJ member, with only two positions going to the DPJ’s partners: State Minister in Charge of Consumer Affairs and the Declining Birthrate to SDP head Mizuho Fukushima and State Minister in Charge of Financial and Postal Issues to People’s New Party chief Shizuka Kamei.

So, without further ado, the Cabinet:

Yukio Hatoyama, Prime Minister

Apparently, the fact that Hatoyama’s wife, the former Takarazuka actress Miyuki is a bit, shall we say, eccentric is the most interesting thing about the man outside of Japan, even more interesting than his being known as “the alien.”Hatoyama, though, is a bit of both new and old. Prior to entering politics in 1986, he was an engineering professor at Senshu University, a position he held since earning his PhD in engineering from Stanford University. Hatoyama is also prone to big thoughts, as his much-discussed editorial in Voice showed. He has also been criticized by former PM Yashuhiro Nakasone, among others, for being too nice, too soft, insufficiently decisive. That seems to have changed at least a bit over the years, with Hatoyama taking over the DPJ presidency from Ichiro Ozawa last Spring and leading his party to a history-making victory on August 30th. As mentioned above, Hatoyama has handled the press firmly and successfully since the election, threatening to change appointments if any were leaked.

However, Hatoyama is, like many of his predecessors, from a political dynasty and the the wealthiest stratum of Japanese society. His father, Iichiro, served as Foreign Minister and his father before him was both Prime Minister (at one time for a mere 46 days) and a founding member of the LDP. Hatoyama’s mother was from the Ishibashi family, best known for founding Bridgestone tires. More recently, his brother, Kunio, served as Justice Minister, then Internal Affairs Minister in the Fukuda and Aso Cabinets and was known for being among the finest issuers of egregious and offensive statements in a party that produced a fair number of such talented individuals.

Hirofumi Hirano, Chief Cabinet Secretary

One-time Matsushita (Panasonic) union leader Hirano’s main attribute is his loyalty to Hatoyama, which is perhaps the key ingredient in an effective Chief Cabinet Secretary. As he lined up votes for Hatoyama as party president after Ichiro Ozawa stepped aside, he will now need to make sure the Cabinet sticks to the game plan and doesn’t fall prey to the plague of the last few LDP cabinets – scandals, contradictions of the PM, etc.

Naoto Kan, Deputy Prime Minister and State Minister for National Strategy and Economic and Fiscal Policy

Kan co-founded the DPJ and was party president from 2002 to May 2004, when he resigned after it was found that he hadn’t made pension payments – a scandal that grew to include a number of pols, including then-PM Koizumi.Kan also served as Minister of Health, Labour and Welfare when he was still in the LDP in the mid-’90s, a fact the LDP, when it was getting desperate, used to try to pin the pension fiasco on the DPJ.

Like new MHLW Akira Nagatsuma, Kan gained fame by discovering a scandal of sorts. In his case, HIV-tainted blood products. After a lengthy legal battle, the government accepted responsibility for improper screening and the subsequent infection of some of the patients who received the products.

In his new role, Kan’s main responsibility will be to guide policy and tackle the problems witht he budget – no small feat as the DPJ hopes to take the power of budget-making out of the hands of the MOF and consolidate it in the hands of the Cabinet. No one likes to give up power. Rumor has it, the MOF is already looking at the DPJ as something to be survived, not something with which they should cooperate.

Hirohisa Fujii, Minister of Finance

This one had pretty much been leaked. Fujii’s name was making the rounds as a possible Finance Minister even before the election, and rightly so, as he has a reputation for being an expert on taxes and the budget. He was also Finance Minister under former PMs Morihiro Hosokawa and Tsutomu Hata of the then-Socialist party – the only two non-LDP PMs of the LDP era.At 77, though, Fujii is December to the May of many of his fellow DPJ members and retired, albeit only for two years, after his loss in the September 2005 snap election.

Katsuya Okada, Minister of Foreign Affairs

Another DPJ heavyweight, Okada was in the unfortunate position of leading the DPJ through the September 2005 general election, which Koizumi managed to make LDP vs. LDP (over postal privatization, leading to the creation of the People’s New Party) and in which the DPJ wound up in a position numerically weaker than that in which the LDP now finds itself.

Okada was once a bureaucrat in the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry (METI), successor to MITI, which effectively ruled Japan – a background that might be helpful in the DPJ’s upcoming battles with the bureaucracy. Like other senior DPJ members, he started his political career in the LDP. He also has a bit of a pedigree – his father founded retail giant Aeon and his brother is now CEO.

Perhaps of interest to TPR readers and listeners, Okada is the most prominent member of a group of lawmakers that seeks to give permanent residents suffrage in local elections.

Keiko Chiba, Minister of Justice

Also of particular interest to foreign residents of Japan will be Keiko Chiba, who was a human rights lawyer befor getting her start in politics with the Social Democratic Party. In marked contrast to earlier Justice Ministers, Chiba is part of a group of lawmakers that supports Amnesty International. She also seeks to set up prefectural groups to promote human rights and advocates for the rights of foreign workers.

It was not long ago that Kunio Hatoyama, the new PM’s brother, was Justice Minister and opined that Japan kept the death penalty because the Japanese simply valued life more than Westerners, who didn’t really care about human life and, thus, were willing to treat murder less seriously. She is now in a position to change a number of Japan’s most pressing rights problems: from relatively unmonitored police interrogations to the quasi-slavery that exists under the guest worker program to perhaps even Japan’s administration of the death penalty – a move her office announced almost immediately upon her ascension to the post. Look for incremental improvements, such as setting definite dates for executions and the videotaping of confessions.

Akira Nagatsuma, Minister of Health, Labour, and Welfare

Our man. We here at TPR record in and have two of our editors living in Tokyo’s 7th district, in which Nagatsuma regained his seat after losing it in the 2005 election.

This is a particularly fitting ministerial appointment as Nagatsuma calls himself “Mister Nenkin” (Mister Pension), a reference to his main claim to fame: uncovering the 50 million pension accounts which were either lost or for which the owners were unknown – possibly the government’s biggest, most pressing ongoing scandal of the past few years.

He held a number of high-ranking posts in the shadow cabinet while the DPJ was in the opposition.

Toshimi Kitazawa, Minister of Defense

Defense Minister is a natural fit for Kitazawa, who has been heading the Upper House foreign policy and defense committee. Kitazawa had a taste of authority when he worked for Socialist PM Hata as parliamentary vice farm minister.

While the DPJ is unlikely to make reevaluation of Japan’s alliance with the US a top policy priority, its junior coalition partners are pushing for it and Kitazawa will have his work cut out for him with the realignment of the USMC in Okinawa and Japan’s increasingly assertive use of the SDF, even if nothing currently in the works changes much.

Kazuhiro Haraguchi, Minister of Internal Affairs and Communications

Two years after first enetering the Diet with the now-defunct New Frontier Party in 1996, Haraguchi joined the DPJ. He is academically pedigreed, having graduated from both the University of Tokyo and the Matsushita Institute of Government and Management, but has never before held a senior government position.

Masayuki Naoshima, Minister of Economy, Trade, and Industry

Having worked for Toyota prior to entering national politics with the old Democratic Socialist Party, METI might be an apt portfolio for Naoshima. He is best known, at the moment at least, for having been chairman of the DPJ’s policy research committee and, as such, having played a major role in putting together the party’s platform, which, even if it wasn’t a primary factor in the DPJ’s success on August 30th, certainly did no harm and included a few points (think budget reform, not the abolition of tolls) that could form the backbone of a true reform agenda.

Seiji Maehara, Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism

Maehara headed the DPJ during Koizumi’s last year in office and resigned from that post after accusing an LDP Diet member’s son of having been connected to the then-failing Livedoor, but not being able to publicly back it up.

He is still a force to be reckoned with in DPJ politics, though, and could become a central figure in reform efforts as the Transport Ministry is likely to see some substantial changes (at least if cost-cutting and the elimination of government waste really are major DPJ goals.)

Tatsuo Kawabata, Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology

For the DPJ, Kawabata served as vice chairman of the audits and administrative oversight committee. Before getting into politics with the New Frontier Party, he was a union leader for Toray and an engineer.

While Education Minister possibly reached its peak as a glamor job when the distinctly unqualified Ibuki Bunmei held the portfolio under PM Shinzo Abe, who set out a series of vague goals involving MEXT, it is still a portfolio with clout and that could play a big role in some of the DPJ’s proposed reforms.

Hirotaka Akamatsu, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries

Akamatsu is another DPJ member whose previous post as election affairs chief probably gave him an inside knowledge of the party that could help him. However, it is likely that his real struggles will be with the Ministry he now heads – one that will need to be a target of the DPJ’s reform efforts if the party wants to trim the fat.

The Farm Ministry long played a key role in the LDP’s system of patronage and Akamatsu’s new post dominated the headlines for the last few months of former PM Abe’s tenure as scandal-best Farm Minister Matsuoka committed suicide and was succeeded in that post by two more appointees who wound up resigning under the clouds of very similar scandals.

Sakihito Ozawa, Minister of Environmental Affairs

Ozawa’s claim to fame stems largely from his success as a close ally of the new PM. In addition to serving as chairman of the rallying and canvassing commission for the DPJ, he was shadow Minister of Economy, Trade, and Industry while the DPJ was in the opposition and served on the financial affairs committee and as chairman of the environmental committee, which led nicely to his current position.

Prior to becoming an elected politician in 1992 (with the Japan New Party), Ozawa worked for the Bank of Tokyo, then as head of the LDP Diet members’ policy-making group.

Hiroshi Nakai
, National Public Safety Commission Chairman

Nakai spent well over 30 years in the opposition, having been a member of the Democratic Socialist Party for almost 20 years, during which time he served in the Hata Cabinet, then as a member of the New Frontier Party and the Liberal Party (under Ichiro Ozawa), until the party merged with the DPJ.

He has served as vice president of the DPJ and, more recently, worked abduction issue strategy as well as on less pressing matters, such as the committee for the relocation of the National Diet.

Shizuka Kamei
, State Minister in Charge of Financial and Postal Issues

This post makes perfect sense as Kamei left the LDP to form the New Party Nippon as a protest against former PM Koizumi’s postal privatization plans. While the LDP had great success in the 2005 election centered around the issue, Kamei succeeded in holding on to his Hiroshima seat by fending off a challenge from a high-profile Koizumi “assassin” – business wunderkind-turned-convict Takafumi Horie.

A one-time police official, Kamei is one of only two non-DPJ members in the Cabinet and is an open and influential opponent of the death penalty – an argument that may gain more traction now that Ms. Chiba heads the MOJ.

Yoshito Sengoku, State Minister in Charge of Administrative Reform

Well, the job title alone shows just how much former lawyer Sengoku has his work cut out for him. A DPJ member since just about the time the party was founded, Sengoku first entered national politics with Social Democratic Party of Japan, a forerunner of today’s SDP.

Mizuho Fukushima, State Minister in Charge of Consumer Affairs and the Declining Birthrate

While the SDP, which she heads, is certainly not seeing much growth, Fukushima is now in perhaps the most powerful position she’s had.

Known for her advocacy of women’s rights, foreigners’ rights, and other human rights issues, Fukushima has a somewhat higher profile than her party and is frequently in the public eye. While she has but one daughter with her common-law partner, she’ll now have to encourage the younger generation to do a bit more than that and have at least 2.1 kids. The DPJ has advocated paying more to families with young kids in order to offset some of the costs of having children, but the new government will have to address some deeper, more firmly-rooted problems before they’re likely to see real change in people’s lifestyles and reproductive decisions.

So, there you have it – the new Cabinet. Unlike LDP Cabinets, the new ministers should be a bit more focused as DPJ Secretary General Ichiro Ozawa does not want DPJ members with portfolios also holding executive positions within the party.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: