Japan Shinzo Abe cabinet reshuffle marks the start of ‘open race’.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe carried out a major Cabinet reshuffle on Wednesday in a bid to create a fresh image and accomplish his long-cherished goal of revising the Constitution.
Placing emphasis on “stability and challenges” in the Cabinet and his Liberal Democratic Party leadership shake-up, Abe retained key allies and heavyweights, while introducing 13 new ministers, including Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi, a rising star touted by the media as a future leader.
The surprise appointment of the 38-year-old is viewed as Abe’s attempt to boost public support for his government.
In a party meeting in the morning, he vowed to achieve a first-ever amendment to the Constitution drafted under the U.S.-led occupation, saying, “We would like to strongly advance as one, our party’s long-held desire to amend the Constitution.”
The latest personnel overhaul follows a victory in the upper house election in July for the LDP and its junior coalition partner Komeito party.
Prioritizing the stability of his Cabinet, Abe kept familiar faces who have been core members of his team since his 2012 return to power — Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Taro Aso and Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga.
Abe is seeking to rely on the veterans to deal with major challenges such as a planned consumption tax hike slated for next month, which is feared to dampen spending and cause the economy to deteriorate.
Abe appointed Foreign Minister Taro Kono as defense minister, while replacing him with economic revitalization minister Toshimitsu Motegi. The two will be expected to play key roles at a time when there is no end in sight to the sharp deterioration of ties between Japan and South Korea over wartime history and trade policy.
Also in the LDP, the party president kept intact Secretary General Toshihiro Nikai and policy chief Fumio Kishida in an effort to ensure stability in running party affairs.
Among the new faces, Abe appointed his confidants, installing Koichi Hagiuda, executive acting secretary general of the LDP, as education minister and Katsuyuki Kawai, special adviser to the prime minister for foreign affairs, as justice minister.
Koizumi told reporters he will visit Fukushima Prefecture on Thursday to show the government’s readiness to provide continued support to areas hit hard by the 2011 massive earthquake and tsunami.
Abe named Seiko Hashimoto, a House of Councillors lawmaker who is a former speed skater, as minister in charge of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, doubling the number of women in the Cabinet from one to two.
From Komeito, Kazuyoshi Akaba replaced fellow party member Keiichi Ishii as minister of land, infrastructure, transport and tourism.
Among 19 Cabinet ministers, the premier reinstated two with previous ministerial experience.
Abe is likely to become Japan’s longest-serving prime minister in November. His term as LDP president and thus prime minister will end in 2021.
In the LDP, Abe picked Olympics minister Shunichi Suzuki as chairman of the party’s General Council and former education minister Hakubun Shimomura as head of the Election Strategy Committee.