Okada Named DPJ Secretary-General

Thursday, September 16, 2010


Tokyo -- Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada will be appointed secretary-general of the ruling DPJ, replacing Yukio Edano, who is belatedly taking responsibility for the party's poor performance in this summer's House of Councillors elections.

Okada is a former leader of the DPJ and will certainly bring a great deal of probity and gravitas to the post, but he has also not on good terms with powerful backbencher Ichiro Ozawa, a man who gained the support of 200 lawmakers in this week's leadership race.

With Yoshito Sengoku staying on as chief cabinet secretary and Okada as party secretary-general, Prime Minister Naoto Kan has clearly opted not to offer an olive branch to Ozawa and his supporters, although they will no doubt be given some lower-level posts.

This does not bode well for the future of party unity, since it signals that the effort to marginalize Mr. Ozawa's influence will continue, risking continued internal disaffection.

The general public, however, is likely to appreciate Kan's move due to the widespread public dislike of Mr. Ozawa.

Indeed, public opinion polls released today show a bounce in support for the Kan administration in the wake of his victory over Ozawa. According to the Nihon Keizai Shinbun, the Kan administration soared 17 points to a 71% approval rating. Impressive if true.

Meanwhile, Okada himself expressed reluctance to take over the secretary-general position since he had evidently hoped to be reappointed as foreign minister. In the end, however, he accepted Kan's decision.

Katsuya Okada, 57, is a native of Mie Prefecture and the second son of Takuya Okada, founder of the Aeon Group. He began his political career in 1990 in the Takeshita Faction of the LDP, but left the ruling party in 1993 in a rebellion led by the faction's most energetic senior member, Ichiro Ozawa.

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