September 26, 2006


Abe Is Elected Japanese Prime Minister (MARTIN FACKLER, 9/26/06, NY Times)

Members of Mr. Abe’s staff have said these aides will have their own staff of experts and researchers, allowing them to draw up policy directly without relying on ministry bureaucrats. [...]

In particular, the security advisor will eventually have a staff of several dozen, with the announced aim of creating a Japanese-version of the U.S. National Security Council. This has led many here to comment that Mr. Abe was trying to make the traditionally weak prime minister’s office look more like a seat of strong executive power.

“Mr. Abe is definitely trying to build something that looks like the White House,” said Tomoaki Iwai, a professor of politics at Nihon University.

After winning leadership of the ruling party last week, Mr. Abe reportedly spent several days holed up in his country retreat near Mt. Fuji, deciding whom to include in his new Cabinet.

Mr. Iwai and others said Mr. Abe’s choices reflected a hawkish bent to the new administration. Most were also in their 50s, a decade younger than many Cabinets in the past.

One of the most watched appointments was to the new post of national security advisor. This went to Yuriko Koike, a 54-year-old former television news reporter who has been a vocal supporter of economic sanctions on North Korea since it admitted kidnapping Japanese citizens two decades ago.

Another was the selection of Eriko Yamatani to the post of education advisor. A 56-year-old former reporter for the Sankei Shimbun, a right-wing daily, Ms. Yamatani has been a vocal critic of sexual education and teaching of "excessive" gender equality in schools. The incoming state minister in charge of gender equality, Sanae Takaichi, was another social conservative who opposed allowing women to legally keep their maiden name after marriage.

The choice of Mr. Shiozaki as chief Cabinet secretary, Japan’s equivalent of the White House chief of staff, was widely viewed as a move to strengthen Mr. Abe's personal control. Mr. Shiozaki, 55, is a Harvard-trained former central banker and close ally of Mr. Abe who is widely respected among younger Liberal Democratic lawmakers.

In contrast, the new Cabinet featured no political heavy-weights in top economic posts, reflecting what some economists and political scientists said was a shift in priorities toward foreign policy and national security.

May as well just hire Paul O'Neill if you're going to be that much like the White House....

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 26, 2006 6:42 PM
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