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Japan's Next PM Reshuffles Party Leadership


A day before he is to be selected prime minister, Shinzo Abe has shuffled the leadership of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party. The appointments provide Japan with its first hint of the Abe Administration's priorities.

Shinzo Abe gave a strong signal Monday that his administration will not veer far from the policies of his predecessor, outgoing Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.

A day before parliament is due to elect Abe to succeed Mr. Koizumi, the new leader of the Liberal Democratic Party appointed his top political executives. The man receiving the most attention - both for his past record and what his appointment says about Abe's future policies - is 62-year-old Hidenao Nakagawa, a scandal-tainted veteran of two previous administrations.

Nakagawa resigned as chief cabinet secretary five years ago after he was linked to a top right-wing extremist, and an alleged extramarital affair with a bar hostess was publicized.

Still, during Mr. Koizumi's five years in office, Nakagawa was instrumental in promoting the prime minister's spending cuts and other structural reforms. His appointment to the secretary-general's post is seen as a sign that the new prime minister intends to continue with the Koizumi reforms.

Analyst Kenichi Nagura, who monitors Japanese politics for Medley Global Advisors, says one of Nakagawa's early jobs will be to limit damage to the L.D.P in next year's upper house elections - which will be the first major electoral test for Abe's administration.

"Many people say the L.D.P. will lose the election. The L.D.P. secretary-general is in charge of the election, so Nakagawa will put his effort on the election," Nagura says.

Nakagawa shares Abe's hawkish views on North Korea, and his desire to revise the pacifist constitution imposed on Japan by the United States after World War Two. The appointment makes him second in the party after Abe himself.

On Tuesday, shortly after being selected as prime minister, Abe is to name his cabinet members. Analysts say it will likely include a number of familiar faces from the Koizumi Administration - a further sign that nothing significantly new is expected regarding domestic policies with the change of administrations.

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