As Japan waits for the DPJ’s Diet members to choose a new party leader and then for the Diet to confirm the new prime minister, the media is speculating about the new lineup for the cabinet and the party leadership.
Among other items of speculation, Sengoku Yoshito is supposedly the front runner to succeed Ozawa as secretary-general, and Noda Yoshihiko, now the vice finance minister, is said to be the front runner to replace Kan as finance minister.
I would expect, however, that if elected, Kan Naoto will make very few changes to the Hatoyama cabinet, not least because the DPJ has stressed the importance of continuity in office for political appointees (and the prime minister, although it has obviously failed at that). Beyond this principle, one wonders whether the new prime minister will actually need a new cabinet, given that the one task Hatoyama actually succeeded at was selecting a cabinet composed of heavyweights representative of the DPJ’s various groups and perspectives. There might be more changes to subcabinet positions, but even there, the DPJ has stressed the importance of cooperation among the political appointees within the ministries.
Hatoyama did not fail because of his cabinet, although Kamei Shizuka and some other cabinet ministers undoubtedly made his life more difficult. It was difficult to see how a reshuffle could have helped Hatoyama, and it is difficult to see how a dramatic overhaul of the cabinet will help Kan.
Obviously Hirano Hirofumi, appointed largely as a Hatoyama confidante, will be out as chief cabinet secretary — he might be the one cabinet member truly deserving of the ax. Otherwise it is far from obvious who should be replaced. And I for one hope that Okada stays on as foreign minister.
UPDATE: After initial indications that the new cabinet would form today, it appears that Kan — with Sengoku Yoshito emerging as the likely chief cabinet secretary — will not form a cabinet before Tuesday. That may be for the best, but I will still be surprised if it looks drastically different from the Hatoyama cabinet.