Koshiishi must get Noda's policies implemented
New Democratic Party of Japan President Yoshihiko Noda was named Tuesday as the nation's prime minister to head the 95th cabinet.
We can sense Noda is trying to form an administration whose members are united and all pulling in the same direction like a baseball team, which is different from the administrations of his predecessors.
But will this be possible considering the DPJ has repeatedly been rocked by internal rifts?
Noda has informally decided to appoint Azuma Koshiishi, chairman of the DPJ caucus in the House of Councillors, as the party's secretary general, and former Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara as chairman of the party's Policy Research Committee.
It is extremely rare for an upper house member to serve as secretary general of a ruling party, a very important post.
Koshiishi is close to former DPJ President Ichiro Ozawa.
By placing Koshiishi in a prime post, Noda apparently is trying to end the intraparty conflict between "pro-Ozawa" and "anti-Ozawa" members--frictions that surfaced during the DPJ presidential race--and build a united party.
It substantiates Noda's call to have no hard feelings after the election.
The new Noda administration will face a mountain of important issues--including a review of the DPJ's election promises, which are full of dole-out policies; tax increases to secure funds for disaster reconstruction and social security reform; and possible participation in negotiations of the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement.
Useful ties with LDP, Komeito
In the DPJ presidential election, Noda made arguments supporting those issues.
However, outgoing Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Banri Kaieda and the other candidates opposed them. いずれも野田氏が代表選で主張してきたが、海江田万里経済産業相らは異論を唱えた。
Koshiishi, who backed Kaieda in the election, will be tested on whether he can smooth over differing opinions among party members and get these policy measures implemented.
Koshiishi has long been a facilitator of DPJ upper house members and has strong connections with the major opposition Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito.
We think he should use his skills to enact the third supplementary budget for disaster restoration as quickly as possible in the so-called divided Diet, where the opposition controls the upper house.
Meanwhile, Maehara is an expert in foreign and security policies, and of the same generation as Noda.
The two have a cooperative relationship.
Noda apparently tapped Maehara to be the party's policy research chief in a bid to keep a balance with Koshiishi, a senior politician.
In the party leadership race, Maehara advocated a review of the Policy Research Committee.
He wanted more party lawmakers involved in the policy-making process.
This fits in with Noda's plan to form a united team.
Review of policy panel
Noda has decided not to make the party's policy research chief double as a cabinet minister, but to demand the government in principle seek his consent in making a decision.
This apparently is intended to enhance the functions of the party's Policy Research Committee and have its opinions reflected in government policies.
Under the government of outgoing Prime Minister Naoto Kan, when decisions were made on integrated reform of the social security and tax systems, and the basic policy on disaster restoration, some DPJ members opposed them and demanded revisions to the government plans. This caused constant confusion.
Simply involving more lawmakers in the policy-making process might cause delays in decisions on policies such as tax hikes, which some lawmakers, including Ozawa supporters, have resisted.
It is important to make conclusions properly based on constructive discussions.
Question marks remain over whether a revamp of the DPJ's policy research panel, an attempt to create a policy-coordination mechanism between the government and the ruling party, will work well.
That will be an important hurdle the new administration must clear.
(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 31, 2011)