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Japan new PM may pick cabinet next week -media

JAPAN'S incoming prime minister, Yukio Hatoyama, may delay choosing his cabinet until a meeting of party lawmakers next week on the advice of a party heavyweight known for behind-the-scenes manoeuvres, media said today.

Following a landslide election victory by his Democratic Party of Japan on Aug. 30, Hatoyama initially said he would announce his ministerial lineup after officially being voted in as prime minister by parliament on Sept. 16.

But he later confirmed he had chosen party executive Naoto Kan for a key position as head of a new National Strategy Bureau, and Katsuya Okada, his rival in the last party leadership race, as foreign minister. Media speculated that the remaining appointments would be wrapped up by the end of the week.

One key post closely watched by financial markets is that of finance minister, who is crucial in shaping the government's stance on currency rates and its relations with the central bank.

Hirohisa Fujii, 77, has been seen as front runner for the post, which he held briefly in the 1990s, but reports on Friday said that appointment and others could be held over until next week on the advice of party No.2 Ichiro Ozawa.

"It seems Ozawa wants everything decided on Sept. 15," the Nikkei business daily quoted one lawmaker as saying. The Asahi and Tokyo newspapers also said Ozawa had urged the delay.


Ozawa, party leader until he was forced to step down in May over a funding scandal, masterminded last month's election victory. Analysts have said Hatoyama, his favoured successor, could find himself controlled by Ozawa as a "shadow shogun".

One analyst said clashes among various political groups within the Democratic Party, reminiscent of past rows within the long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), would inevitably make Hatoyama look weak.

"Unlike some past prime ministers, he is not in a position to decide everything on his own. So it's no surprise that people are saying he is being controlled by Ozawa," said Katsuhiko Nakamura, director of research at think tank Asian Forum Japan.

The Sankei newspaper quoted a Democratic Party executive as saying Ozawa might oppose Fujii's appointment as finance minister because Fujii had not supported Hatoyama in the party leadership election.

"I don't think that's the only reason," said Nakamura. "There are various issues, including his age. But it is a concern that there don't seem to be any other strong candidates in the party."

Hatoyama also faces the problem of how to fit the leaders of new coalition allies the Social Democrats and the People's New Party into his cabinet, given differences over policy.


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