Few surprises in new Cabinet, announced by Junichiro Koizumi

By and large, there were few surprises in the new Cabinet announced Monday by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. Among newly elected lawmakers, only Kuniko Inoguchi was given a Cabinet seat.

New Cabinet members on average have fought and won 6.9 elections, which is higher than in previous Koizumi Cabinets. The average age of the new members exceeds 60. Only two women got posts.

"There are no surprises this time around," said Koizumi in announcing the new team.

A senior LDP Upper House member labeled the new Cabinet as one made up of technocrats. The official said Koizumi chose to put experienced lawmakers in key positions rather than appoint younger members.

Finance Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki and two other ministers retained their posts. The others just switched positions either in the Cabinet or as key members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

Seven lawmakers joined the Cabinet for the first time. Among them was Shinzo Abe, the new chief Cabinet secretary. Abe had served as LDP secretary-general.

Three of the seven apparently were rewarded for their support of Koizumi's postal privatization drive in the runup to the Sept. 11 Lower House election. The other three were chosen because of their seniority.

Inoguchi, the new state minister in charge of gender equality and measures for the declining birthrate, was persuaded by Koizumi to run in the election.

In a news conference, the former ambassador to the Conference on Disarmament and professor of political science at Tokyo's Sophia University, said she could not fathom why Koizumi gave her the position.

New education minister Kenji Kosaka was first elected to Lower House in 1990, taking over the power base established by his father, former Foreign Minister Zentaro Kosaka. He previously had been opposed to postal privatization but had a change of heart and worked tirelessly to help Koizumi achieve his goal as chief deputy chairman of the party's Diet Affairs Committee during the past year.

Justice Minister Seiken Sugiura is best known for his role in negotiations with North Korea over the issue of abductions of Japanese citizens as deputy chief Cabinet secretary.

A former lawyer, Sugiura is one of four Mori faction lawmakers in the new Cabinet. Also in a news conference, Sugiura said he wanted to promote ministerial reform, reports Asahi. I.L.

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