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Editorial: Abe should correctly choose his challenges

  • September 12, 2019
  • , Asahi , p. 16
  • JMH Translation

Out of a total of 19 cabinet ministers, 17 were replaced, 13 of whom received their first cabinet post. But we can’t help but feel that rather than refresh the reshuffle gives the impression that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe focused more on giving important cabinet posts to his close aides while taking into account the desires of LDP factions. This represents a conspicuously inward-looking logic. 


Prime Minister Abe reshuffled the cabinet and changed the LDP leadership in response to results of the last Upper House election this summer. Under the slogan of “Stability and challenge,” the premier had key figures in the cabinet and the LDP remain at their posts including Finance Minister Taro Aso, who is also deputy prime minister; Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga; LDP Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai; and LDP Policy and Research Council Chairperson Fumio Kishida.


Finance Minister Aso heads the organization that caused the unprecedented scandal of falsifying official documents involving the Moritomo Gakuen. This newspaper’s editorials have repeatedly called for the minister’s resignation to take political responsibility for the matter. We cannot accept the prime minister’s judgment to retain Aso remain at his post.


In addition, Prime Minister Abe appointed LDP Executive Acting Secretary-General Koichi Hagiuda minister of Education, Culture, Science, Sports and Technology (MEXT). Hagiuda – a close aide of Abe’s – was rumored to have been involved in the scandal involving the veterinary department of Kake Gakuen. The truth behind the Moritomo and Kake scandals has not been disclosed yet; however, the prime minister appointed them as if to say, “[The scandals] became things of the past.”


In October 2016, when Hagiuda was deputy chief cabinet secretary of the Abe cabinet, the media reported that he told a director-general of MEXT, “The prime minister has set a deadline for opening the school [Kake Gakuen] in April (2018) [urging the director-general to speed up the approval process].” In June 2017, it was disclosed that there is a document that records Hagiuda’s remarks. Hagiuda denies having made such remarks, but now that he leads MEXT, he cannot dodge the matter. He is responsible for thoroughly explaining in the Diet session until he gains understanding from the public.


Among the new cabinet ministers, Hagiuda is not the only one whose political beliefs are much alike Abe’s. The prime minister appointed Seiichi Eto minister for Promoting Dynamic Engagement of All Citizens. Eto was a special advisor to the prime minister. This is his first cabinet post. Eto has been a central figure in “the Japan Conference,” a conservative campaign group that calls for enacting a new constitution. Sanae Takaichi, who was reappointed minister of Internal Affairs and Communications, had referred during her last term to ordering broadcasters judged to repeatedly air politically-biased programs to suspend operations. We should not forget that her remarks were criticized as a threat to broadcasting.


No one was appointed from the faction of former LDP Secretary-General Shigeru Ishiba, who had competed with Abe in the last LDP presidential election. Shinjiro Koizumi, who voted for Ishiba, was appointed environment minister, however, Abe’s reshuffle indicates that he excluded lawmakers who are critical of him. This means he will have only politicians who are willing to satisfy his wishes. Whether Koizumi, who is now in the cabinet, can continue his stance of giving candid advice to Abe will be put to the test.


At the press conference after the reshuffle, the premier, referring to “challenges” that the new cabinet will address, went through various issues both at home and abroad including the shift to a social security system for all generations. And the prime minister said, “Ahead of these issues is the challenge of constitutional amendment.” We don’t think, however, there is a groundswell in favor of constitutional amendment among the people at present. What should Abe seek to achieve in the remaining two years of his LDP presidency? The prime minister should correctly choose his challenges. 

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