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Outlook of cabinet, LDP leadership reshuffle on Aug. 3

  • July 25, 2016
  • , Nikkei , p. 4
  • Translation

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will be reshuffling his cabinet and the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) leadership on Aug. 3. He intends to maintain the basic structure of his administration to propel Abenomics, so Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Taro Aso and Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, who have supported him since the start of the second Abe administration, will keep their jobs. How many of the remaining ministers will be replaced? Since it is difficult to read Abe’s mind, the LDP is filled with both hope and anxiety.


For a while, LDP members thought that there would be a major reshuffle, because Abe stated at his news conference on July 11, held after the party won in the recent House of Councillors election, he would like to “form a strong new team.”


The main goal of the “strong team” is likely to be the creation of an organizational structure to promote Abenomics. Therefore, according to a LDP source, “Aso and Suga will be indispensable.”


A cabinet minister observes that “the balance will be upset if you remove one of them, and a replacement may change the characteristic of Abenomics.” In addition to economic policy, Suga also plays the role of liaison with Komeito and its main support group Soka Gakkai. Aso is an ally and supporter of Abe who advises him not only on financial policy but also on the overall management of the administration.


Justice Minister Mitsuhide Iwaki and Okinawa and Northern Territories Affairs Minister Aiko Shimajiri, who lost their seats in the Upper House election, are certain to be replaced.


In addition, there is talk that Reconstruction Minister Tsuyoshi Takagi, who is under fire from the opposition over political fund issues, and Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Hiroshi Moriyama, who is being sued over a political donation problem, will be replaced. Olympic Games Minister Toshiaki Endo and Minister of Education Hiroshi Hase are also suspected of “politics and money” misdeeds.


The extraordinary Diet session convening in September will process a number of key legislations including: the ratification of the TPP agreement; bills related to the postponement of the consumption tax increase; and the second FY16 supplementary budget. It is possible that ministers with “politics and money” problems and those who are unreliable in Diet interpellations will be replaced.


Meanwhile, Komeito is seeking the retention of Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism Keiichi Ishii. It is widely believed that he will keep his job.


Another key issue in the personnel changes is how to deal with Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and Regional Revitalization Minister Shigeru Ishiba, who are both regarded as possible successors to Abe.


Like Aso and Suga, Kishida has served in the cabinet since the start of the second Abe administration. The LDP’s Kishida faction is demanding his appointment as secretary general. This is because demonstrating his power through his ability to move people and money in the party will be the shortcut to becoming the next party president.


There is also a strong opinion in the Ishiba faction that he should get out of the cabinet. Ishiba got the position of secretary general after the 2012 presidential election, in which he ran against Abe in a close battle that required a runoff vote. However, his aides complain that he has “fallen into oblivion” after becoming the regional revitalization minister.


Kishida’s and Ishiba’s goal will be to demonstrate their unique capabilities until the next presidential election. However, there is talk among Abe’s aides of extending the term of office of the party president, so Kantei (Prime Minister’s Official Residence) may not be keen on appointing potential rivals to choice positions. Another question is what will Kishida and Ishiba do if asked to remain in their jobs?


Certain party members reckon that Policy Research Council chair Tomomi Inada and Minister for Dynamic Engagement of All Citizens Katsunobu Kato, who are close to Abe and regarded as belonging to the “generation after the post-Abe generation,” will be appointed to important positions. (Abridged)

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