(Sankei: September 30, 2015 – p. 5)
By Mayumi Toyoda
A focal issue in the reshuffle of the cabinet and the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) leadership by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (LDP president) on Oct. 7 is the appointment of women. Setting the “empowerment of women” as one of his major policies, Abe has actively appointed women so far. However, he is running short of eligible appointees. While it is possible to give cabinet posts to House of Councillors member Tamayo Marukawa and LDP Policy Research Council chief Tomomi Inada, many other eligible Diet members have impeding issues, so Abe is likely to face some difficult decisions.
After his reelection as LDP president, Abe emphasized at his news conference on Sept. 24 that he will pay attention to the ratio of women in his appointments. However, he has already appointed nine women to the cabinet or the LDP leadership since his second cabinet took off in 2012. In the first place, only about 10%, or 41, of LDP Diet members are women, so he is running out of choices.
Upper House member Aiko Shimajiri (elected from the Okinawa district, serving her second term), whom it is rumored will be appointed to her first cabinet post, has a weak political base. Certain measures will need to be taken for her to get reelected next summer. Another Upper House member Midori Ishii (proportional representation ticket, serving her second term) is being investigated by the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors’ Office in connection with illegal indirect political donations from the Japan Dental Federation.
Among former cabinet ministers that could be reappointed, former General Council chief Seiko Noda had actively tried to prevent Abe from being reelected as LDP president without a vote. Former Defense Minister Yuriko Koike is close to Regional Revitalization Minister Shigeru Ishiba, who distances himself from Abe, so it would be awkward to appoint her.
On the other hand, Marukawa has served as chair of the Upper House Committee on Health, Labor, and Welfare and parliamentary vice minister for health, labor, and welfare. She is 44 and has one child. She is being considered for the posts of minister of state in charge of tackling the declining birthrate or deputy chief cabinet secretary.
Inada, whom Abe regards to be a future candidate for prime minister, may possibly be named minister of economy, trade, and industry to groom her as top leader.
However, Abe’s aides lament that “there are only a handful of possible new appointees such as Marukawa.”
Meanwhile, Komeito leader Natsuo Yamaguchi indicated to reporters in Joso City, Ibaraki Prefecture, on Sept. 29 that keeping Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Akihiro Ota from his party in his current post would be desirable. (Slightly abridged)