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Ishihara loses Diet seat, wins appointment as special advisor to the cabinet

By Abe Ryutaro and Morioka Kohei

 

On December 3, Prime Minister Kishida Fumio appointed former LDP Secretary General Ishihara Nobuteru Special Advisor to the Cabinet and former Senior Vice-Minister for Internal Affairs and Communications Terada Minoru Special Advisor to the Prime Minister. Ishihara, a longtime ally of Kishida, lost his Lower House seat in the election in October. Terada, who is a Hiroshima native like the prime minister and a member of the Kishida faction, won the Lower House seat but was not appointed to a senior position after the election. 

 

The special advisors to the cabinet work as the prime minister’s “brain,” using their expertise to advise the prime minister and to keep him informed. The position was created in 1987 with the aim to improve the function of the Prime Minister’s Office [Kantei]. It is a non-permanent national government position, and there is no limit to the number of people hired for the position. Former Prime Minister Abe Shinzo at one time had 15 cabinet advisors. According to the Cabinet Affairs Office, the special advisors to the cabinet receive 26,400 yen per day. The special advisors to the prime minister, on the other hand, are working-level officials who help the prime minister in policy matters at his request. The position was established by the Cabinet Law in 1996, and the number of people hired is limited to five. They are government officials with special capacity, who receive 1,438,800 yen per month and occupy an office inside the Kantei. 

 

An individual who served as a special advisor to the cabinet explained that there are three types of people appointed as a special advisor to the cabinet: (1) government officials who will continue to provide support on relevant matters, (2) experts, such as scholars, who can advise the prime minister, and (3) politicians who lost their Diet seats and need a job. “The prime minister gave the title of the special advisor to [Ishihara] who lost the election,” he said.

 

Iijima Isao is unique among the special advisors to the cabinet. Iijima, a secretary to former Prime Minister Koizumi Junichiro, was appointed special advisor to the cabinet by Abe in December 2012 and has remained in the position to this day. All six special advisors to the cabinet, other than Iijima and Ishihara, were appointed by former Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide, and it is clear that the positions are occupied by people close to Suga or Abe, who is influential within the party.

 

Advisors’ gaffe could damage the administration

 

Because both special advisors to the cabinet and special advisors to the prime minister tend to be close allies of the premier, scandals involving the advisors could undermine the administration and the prime minister himself. In May, Kaetsu University professor Takahashi Yoichi tweeted that the situation of COVID-19 infection in Japan is not a wave but just a “ripple” and consequently lost his position as the Suga administration’s special advisor to the cabinet.                                                                                                         

Ishihara has a history of gaffes. Concerning a new interim storage facility for contaminated soil, he remarked: “[Just paying] money [in forms of subsidies and compensation] will solve the problem”. Furthermore, there is criticism about appointing someone who failed to gain support from voters in the recent Lower House election to a position that could influence the administration’s decisions.

 

“Obviously, the prime minister needs advisors who can inform and support him,” says Okawa Chihiro, a professor of political science at Kanagawa University, adding that the appointments must be justified. Okawa stressed, considering that Ishihara supported Kishida in the LDP presidential election, “The prime minister must remain transparent as to the reason he chose him, lest people suspect that he did so for personal reasons.”

 

Kishida administration’s special advisors to the cabinet / the prime minister

Special Advisors to the Cabinet

Iijima Isao

  (Since Abe adm.)

Former secretary to PM Koizumi Junichiro

Mission-specific appointment

Imai Takaya

  (Since Suga adm.)

Former secretary and special advisor to PM Abe Shinzo

Specializes in energy policy and others

Okabe Nobuhiko

  (Since Suga adm.)

Director General of Kawasaki City Institute for Public Health

Specializes in infectious diseases

Kumagai Mitsumaru

  (Since Suga adm.)

Chief economist at Daiwa Institute of Research

Specializes in finance and economy

Miyake Kunihiko

  (Since Suga adm.)

Former diplomat

Specializes in foreign policy

Murai Jun

  (Since Suga adm.)

Professor at Keio University

Specializes in digital policy

Yamasaki Shigetaka

  (Since Suga adm.)

Former Cabinet Office Vice-Minister

Specializes in imperial succession and other matters

Ishihara Nobuteru

Former LDP Secretary General

Appointment for specifically achieving tourism-oriented nation

Special Advisors to the Prime Minister

Nakatani Gen

 

Human rights issues

Murai Hideki

Former Parliamentary Secretary of the Cabinet Office

Appointment for specifically improving domestic economy

Mori Masako

Former Justice Minister

Women’s active participation in society

Terada Minoru

Former Senior Vice-Minister for Internal Affairs and Communications

National security and nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament issues

(All four special advisors to the prime minister are Diet members)

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