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.
One thought on “Meet the new cabinet, (mostly the) same as the old cabinet?”
Another minister probably not coming back is of course Akamatsu Hirotaka, due to his handling of the foot-and-mouth outbreak in Miyazaki prefecture.Speaking of ministers of agriculture, for some time I could not help seeing parallels between Hatoyama Yukio's prime ministership and Abe Shinzo's.Both came from _obotchama_ backgrounds; both took the reins at the Kantei amid high expectations; both said they wanted to change Japan, with Abe speaking of _sengo regime kara no dattai_ and Hatoyama of _sengo gyosei no o-soji_.Indeed, both were apparently undermined by bureaucrats not passing correct information on to them — and both had troubled ministers of agriculture to contend with.Under Abe, it is said, mandarins at the Social Insurance Agency assured him it would be possible to repair every last worker's pension records, leading him to promise exactly that during the upper-house election campaign. We all know what became of that promise.Under Hatoyama, it appears Kantei officials were guilty of feeding him rubbish. In the issue of _Shukan Asahi_ I read last Tuesday at the supermarket (with the headline 'Fukuan aru wa uso…' which stuck in my mind, on the front cover), I read that when Tahara Soichiro called on PM Hatoyama in March (?) to ask why he was not visiting Okinawa, Hatoyama said his officials were already talking with prominent Okinawans. When Mr. Tahara then travelled to Naha to talk with Gov. Nakaima and told him what he heard from Hatoyama, the governor was astonished (_kyoton to shiteita_), or so wrote the _Shukan Asahi_.Thus, when last Tuesday night PM Hatoyama was seen giving the thumbs-up sign, I half-expected him to stay on beyond the coming polling day — and then develop some psycho-somatic ailment which would force him from office.Since then, that thumbs-up sign has been re-interpreted as a sign Hatoyama had secured Mr. Ozawa's resignation as secretary-general.From Koshiishi Azuma's being present at Hatoyama and Ozawa's meeting, it appears IMO that Ozawa agreed to step down at the same time as Hatoyama in order to save Mr. Koshiishi's seat in Yamanashi. There, after all, the LDP fielded one of the few non-members of the Japan Teachers' Union teaching there as the prefectural candidate, plus a popular baseballer from Yamanashi as a PR candidate. Could Koshiishi's surviving the comming polls thus show Ozawa's influence is still there?About the opinion polls in the 1st June Sankei article linked to in a previous positng: The 70.4% of respondents who said they did not approve of the plan coming back to Henoko after all probably includes those like me who think the 2006 plan is the best one on offer (removal of MCAS Futenma, 8000 Marines to Guam, return of US bases from Kadena southwards to Japan) and condemn him for promising the impossible.Finally, Kan's origins could indeed not be more different from Hatoyama's, and it shows: From Japanese TV I understand Mrs. Kan Nobuko (a year older than Naoto) has her feet firmly on Earth ;-).