Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, bottom center, poses with his new cabinet, for a group photo session at the prime minister's official residence in Tokyo on Wednesday night. Photo: AP/Eugene Hoshiko
politics

Revamped cabinet lineup signals Abe's gambit to stay in power

39 Comments
By Noriyuki Suzuki

Nearly seven years in office, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is betting that his handpicked ministers and ruling party lawmakers will give him a firmer -- and possibly longer -- grip on power.

With relatively high support ratings and a track record of election wins, the 64-year-old Abe hopes to keep the wind blowing in his favor as he is set to deliver on his promise to go ahead with an unpopular consumption tax hike next month.

Abe brought in new faces in his cabinet reshuffle on Wednesday, with the surprise installment of rising political star Shinjiro Koizumi viewed as the prime minister's attempts to get a fresh popularity boost and foster a pool of future talent in the ruling party to succeed him.

But he largely counted on his longtime supporters and trusted allies to ensure a smooth ride, leaving the job of maintaining intraparty unity to heavyweights in Abe's ruling Liberal Democratic Party who are loyal to the premier.

"The new lineup is meant to lay the groundwork for Abe to press forward with his goal of amending the Constitution and possibly to seek yet another term (beyond September 2021)," said Masahiro Iwasaki, a political science professor at Nihon University.

"Abe created a comfortable environment by leaving naysayers out," Iwasaki said.

Signifying the continuation of the status quo, Abe kept Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga and Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso, who doubles as finance minister, both of whom have formed the backbone of the Abe administration since 2012.

As Abe said he would form a team that can "shine a light" on various faces in the LDP, the subsequent appointment of would-be successors in Cabinet posts is also a strategic move to secure their loyalty and solidify his power base, political observers say.

Besides Koizumi, the list of hopefuls includes Defense Minister Taro Kono, a U.S.-educated political maverick, and Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi, who has earned his reputation as a tough and skilled negotiator in bilateral trade talks with the United States. Health minister Katsunobu Kato is Abe's close aide who used to serve as a deputy chief cabinet secretary.

Abe's right-hand man Suga is also rumored to be a contender since he announced the name of Japan's new imperial era and became known as "Uncle Reiwa."

"Abe apparently thought Kono was becoming a standout as foreign minister. So moving him to (the post of) defense and having Motegi take over can signal that they are both potential successors," Hitoshi Komiya, an associate professor at Aoyama Gakuin University.

"The succession battle will continue. But I doubt that Abe is serious about fostering successors to an extent that his position will be challenged, at least for now," said Komiya, an expert in contemporary Japanese history who is well-versed in the LDP.

Following his return to power in 2012, Abe is set to become the longest-serving prime minister in November and still has two more years left in his current term. Any extension will require a rule change in the LDP.

Abe's harboring of ambitions to stay in power may be evident in his choice of heavyweight Toshihiro Nikai over Fumio Kishida, a potential Abe successor, to take the No. 2 post of secretary general.

Political analysts expect Abe to accelerate work toward amending the pacifist constitution before his term ends, saying that Nikai will be the better fit in terms of coordination skills.

But Abe, along with the LDP, faces a higher hurdle without support from the opposition camp, now that pro-amendment forces are short of the two-thirds majority in the upper house needed to initiate any revision process.

Mindful of that reality, former Foreign Minister Kishida -- a moderate liberal who distinguishes himself from Abe -- made a rare overture ahead of the reshuffle, though it apparently failed.

In a face-to-face meeting in late August with Abe, Kishida expressed his wish to become the next secretary general of the LDP and said he would lead LDP efforts toward constitutional reform, according to people with knowledge of the meeting.

Kishida was not allowed to climb the ladder this time, but he revealed part of his thinking at a press conference on Wednesday, also attended by Nikai.

"As I begin my third-term as policy chief, I'd like to make it much clearer...how I see my future and the future of Japan from now," Kishida said.

The retaining of Kishida as policy chief was a calibrated move on the part of Abe.

"He may still lack luster (to be an Abe successor) but moving him out of the key LDP executive posts would have turned him against Abe," said Iwasaki. "That is something that the prime minister wants to avoid."

Abe's distribution of posts was largely balanced among the LDP's established factions, a sign of Abe's focus on intraparty unity, according to political observers. Still, he gave the cold shoulder to one led by his rival Shigeru Ishiba, who has challenged Abe in recent LDP leadership races.

Nikai, already the longest-serving LDP secretary general, promised again to stand by Abe, also president of the party, in the years ahead.

"Should the president decide (to seek another term), I'd like to say...he can get support from the whole of the party," he said.

Opposition parties slam new cabinet

Meanwhile, opposition parties accused Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of favoring allies rather than making merit-based appointments in his cabinet reshuffle Wednesday.

Tetsuro Fukuyama, secretary general of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, said Abe had appointed individuals on a waiting list for cabinet posts.

"It is a cabinet favoring his close aides and friends," Fukuyama said at a press conference.

Fukuyama also questioned the timing of the reshuffle, saying hundreds of thousands of households near Tokyo are still facing power and water outages following a powerful typhoon that ripped through the metropolitan area.

The prime minister appointed confidants in the cabinet shake-up, installing Koichi Hagiuda, executive acting secretary general of Abe's Liberal Democratic Party, as education minister and Katsuyuki Kawai, special adviser to the prime minister for foreign affairs, as justice minister.

Abe also retained Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Taro Aso and Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, core members of his team since his return to power in 2012.

The personnel overhaul followed a solid victory in the upper house election in July for the LDP and its junior coalition partner the Komeito party, though ruling coalition and other lawmakers who support Abe's drive for constitutional reform fell short of securing the necessary two-thirds majority.

Akira Koike, second-in-command of the Japanese Communist Party, likened the new cabinet to a gathering of friends and added, "It is a provocative lineup squarely challenging the stated will of the people that there is no need to hasten constitutional reform."

Nobuyuki Baba, secretary general of the Japan Innovation Party, said it was unclear whether the new cabinet could push ahead with necessary policies such as regulatory reforms.

Yuichiro Tamaki, leader of the Democratic Party for the People, said he found it difficult to understand what Abe was trying to achieve with this new cabinet.

"We've got piles of items that need answers, policy wise and qualification wise," Tamaki said.

© KYODO

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

39 Comments
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The lack of women is definitely made up for by Koizumi Jr.

Jaoanese people can't figure out why their economy has been treading water for roughly three decades, why women are held down, or why they have antiquated rape and child protection laws but they keep voting for the old men that are out of touch with reality. Way, way too funny.

Intellectual laziness at its finest.

16 ( +22 / -6 )

I mean, I will not be directly invoking -ism against old people...

But literally only Koizumi-not-the-actor-one Shinjirou is the only young person on that photo, and in that revamped cabinet I guess. Now stay with me - this is pathetic. The old boys gang is in control, and Shinjirou is there only because of the social context surrounding him - he is a son of a previous prime minister (with considerable experience and education to back himself, naturally) and boasts a lot of appeal for an average Japanese person, as does his father. This is a clear misuse of young people in attempts to forward old gangs agenda. Shinzou Abe is bursting another bottom with every move he makes.

10 ( +13 / -3 )

Nearly seven years in office, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is betting that his handpicked ministers and ruling party lawmakers will give him a firmer -- and possibly longer -- grip on power.

Why is the author here exaggerating the "handpicked ministers"? Every cabinet that Abe has chosen, along with just about all previous PM's here, (a few glaring examples, where the PM didnt last long) HANDPICKS their cabinet ministers.

This is nothing special, it's not unique, and nearly every cabinet ever chosen is done so with an eye on keeping power.

What the author is doing here is laying the "verbal" ground work for Abe to once again push through a change in the LDP's internal bylaws, like he did recently, that allowed him to remain as party president for a 3rd term.

Previously LDP bylaws limited the party president to a maximum of 2 consecutive terms, but Abe pushed through a change, and now he has 3 terms, but articles written like this, start the ground work for Abe to push through another change that will allow a 4th term.

I would appreciate the writers of articles like this would refrain from assisting Abe in his quest to become a dictator here!

14 ( +16 / -2 )

That fashion went out of style in the rest of the world during the mid-20th century.

12 ( +14 / -2 )

Relax Yubaru, this is not even their own article. Your righteous fury is lost on them here.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

Straight out of that horror movie, The Wax Museum.

9 ( +12 / -3 )

That fashion went out of style in the rest of the world during the mid-20th century.

It reminds them of their heydays in the 30s and 40s before the US bestowed upon them democracy.

8 ( +11 / -3 )

It's so great to see a token woman.

14 ( +15 / -1 )

".... It is a cabinet favoring his close aides and friends ...."

Of course it is, buddy-buddy business as always!

And what a line-up, 2 female cabinet members only? What's up with that?

Besides, at least 8 to 10 of those showing up in the picture should be way past retirement age.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

Yeah, I noticed the same thing, Mizu-chan. If Japan wants to survive, the ratio of women to men in that picture should be exactly reversed. If it is not now, it will become clear to even the most distracted that Humanity is now in deep threat, and extinction is entirely possible. It's happened to way better animals than us, and we can no longer learn from our own behavior. It breaks my heart that this one guy, Abe, might drag Nihon backward in cultural time to militarism and dictatorship because nothing could be more obvious than his desire to do so. Maybe his supporters have become bored with Peace and would like some of that excitement their ancestors suffered through? It's like watching a huge rock at the top of a cliff begin to move, and the people at the campsite below the cliff cannot hear even your SCREAMS to them...There is only one change which Humanity might make which could save us. Written history is 6000 years of HIS STORY and it is NOTHING but blood, rape, and death. We need full and total MATRIARCHY now, exactly reverse the power roles in all of our societies. There is no other change with the magnitude of POSITIVE difference this would make in the outlook for the future of the Human genepool. Women simply CANNOT DO WORSE THAN MEN HAVE DONE with this place and, as long as men are running it, nothing will change until it does with a bang, a BIG bang. And then silence. And the Earth just starts over, better luck next time. It's all we got, and it's a lot.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Not enough diversity Abe... Show some Abenomics not old boys club.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Abe apparently thought Kono was becoming a standout as foreign minister. 

Lol.....what exactly has Kono achieved to be considered a 'standout' apart from towing Abe,s line?

Relations with all of Japan,s neighbors are at rock bottom or near it. Great job ...oh yeah...Taro occupies himself with such important issues as winding back the clock and putting a family name first and given name second on official paperwork. Guess what the oyaji fossils at LDP and Nippon Kaigi consider 'standout' efforts.

11 ( +12 / -1 )

maintaining intraparty unity

There is no intraparty unity in the LDP. It may come as a surprise to many to find out that Japan is more similar to the US in this regard than it is to Europe or other East Asian countries. Japan, much like the US has diversity within the ruling party. While political power in Japan is heavily concentrated in the central government, and in particular the LDP, it is not concentrated into 1 person, but rather it is dispersed into factions within the LDP. Power is concentrated in the leaders of each faction group, which in essence is an interest group of people. This is partly due to the multiple-member district electoral system in Japan. The existence of factions within the LDP is one of the reasons the govt. appears so dysfunctional in passing laws. Conflicts among various interests are usually ironed out before a bill is introduced to the Diet. It's very similar to the US, only in the US, it's not group of people, but individual politicians, which is again mostly due to the electoral system. Because party funding is almost non-existent in the US, politicians become dependent, or at least very sensitive to demands of interest groups that finance their campaign. In both US and Japan political power is very fragmented, but for two different reasons.

Because of the peculiarities of the electoral system in Japan, parties, rather than individual politicians, have power. It is very common to see parties in Japan acting like an individual candidate would act in America. For example, forming a party just to pass a specific law. Not based on principle of ideology, but just to pass one legislation. We see that all the time. Most recently with the NHK party. If that was in the US, it would've been a single candidate fighting for that cause, but in Japan, because the electoral system is based on groups, groups get formed for that one purpose. In Nagoya, the ruling party there is called "no taxes" or something like that, again, a small faction formed just for one specific purpose, and then acts as a wing for the LDP which holds prefectures and prefectural parties dependent on them by having a centralized finance.

Change in the US happens much easier, because all you need to do is vote for enough politicians who would support what you want, wheres in Japan, new parties have to be voted in who would attach themselves to the LDP and push for what they want. The system in Japan is centered around the rural vote and corporate interests. If any small party tries to challenge LDP, they can just shut down their financing because of the financial centralization, at least that's the fear. The only way to change the system is if you do it from within by voting in smaller parties who would attach themselves to the LDP, and push for financial decentralization of the country. That's why i put so much hope in Ishin no Kai, because they want to do just that, and if they are able to change Osaka, they might get support from other prefectures like Nagoya. Once momentum is build, things happen very fast.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

Well, for those who may not see the glaring problem with this picture here's an article published 5 years ago today:

With its aging population and dwindling workforce, Japan more than ever is looking to women like Ms. Suzuki. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has brought the issue to the forefront of his economic-growth policy known as "Abenomics," proclaiming a goal to fill 30% of leadership positions in Japan with women by 2020

It may help, Abe-san, to set the example where you have control.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/abes-goal-for-more-women-in-japans-workforce-prompts-debate-1410446737

11 ( +11 / -0 )

Japan does need stable leadership from now on regardless.

The annual changing of the top man that went on for years and years before Abe was ridiculous.

-10 ( +1 / -11 )

First thought, where are the women? Didn't Abe promise to support women more and this is it? Anyway whatever cabinet, whoever is in it, it's all just nothingness.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

Straight out of that horror movie, The Wax Museum.

exactly! brilliant!!

7 ( +9 / -2 )

Ghoulish outfits aside, how's this revamped? It's filled to the brim with kaigi afficionados. The education minister alone was involved in the school scandal. japan doesn't have a hope or a prayer.

13 ( +14 / -1 )

Why is the author here exaggerating the "handpicked ministers"?

Kyodo are masters of subtle propaganda. Like NHK.

*the surprise installment of rising political star Shinjiro Koizumi*

No, not surprising. The media made this "telegenic" guy a star. Koizumi has been on TV constantly, especially since marrying his made-for-TV celebrity wife.

10 ( +11 / -1 )

The first line has the time bomb, but who are going to disappear soon are at the last line, some never show their faces at diets. Koizumi Jr. 2nd row from the end. Time bomb or not let's see his political performances...

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I love these photos and their stupid suits. Someone needs to get them some bow ties though.

Love,

Charlie Chaplin

4 ( +5 / -1 )

I’ll bet each and every one is a card-carrying Nippon Kaigi member, out to reinstitute an ultra conservative government. NE Asia has yet to find peace. I don’t see it coming in our generation; not with moves like this. We’re going to see some very tense days ahead. This is definitely going to affect the Olympic attendance. Sad.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

That photo could equally have been taken 100 years ago in 1919. Just sepia tone it, take out the 2 women and the young koizumi kid and noone would see the difference.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

The same ol',same ol'.He's looking to remain in office till he dies and with the apathy of both the voting public and opposition parties,he probably will.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

The prime minister appointed confidants in the cabinet shake-up, installing Koichi Hagiuda, executive acting secretary general of Abe's Liberal Democratic Party, as education minister

Was Haguida not heavily involved with the vet school scandal.

Seems his appointment as education ministet is to ensure smooth sailing of the school.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Oh, and by the way, I just love this word:

"Gambit". Do "they" really know the meaning?

Wikipedia gives a very good explanation:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gambit

Note that it says right at the beginning: "sacrifices material".

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Just for info : Hashimoto, one of the two only women, and the only one who has worked outside politics, was asking her employees to take care of her children...

Photo is showing the dark and no change future of oldies, whatever is being said.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

So many oyaji. Not enough women, and younger politicians. Who on that photo has any connection with the youth of today/younger voters?

As usual, shameful from the government. Archaic dinosaur points of view.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Interesting photo,is this from the early 900?

I see a lot of innovation,young dynamic politicians,many women and of course none of these gentlemen connected to any establishment or lobby.

Poor me,my image of a democratic government is still stucking in such type of outdated old fashioned Danish cabinet.

http://pakistan.um.dk/en/info-about-denmark/politics/the-cabinet/

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Nearly seven years! My! Doesn't time fly!

Seven years of economic stability and prosperity.

Excellent relations with the neighbours.

An increase in the superbly designed consumption tax which we can easily afford.

Pensions and welfare to look for as we get old.

Bliss!

Thank you Mr Abe!

(Heavy sarcasm)

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Feudalism is alive and well when the son inherits his father's status.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

This picture is nothing but out of touch old people.

Their ways of thinking can't possibly be what the younger, future generation needs.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Other than Royal weddings. some high level butlers and the like you just don't see people wearing those penguin suits in the UK, but the Japanese love them, don't they?

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Hopefully this line up will pave the way for long overdue constitutional change! Well done!

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Japanese Abe Government had prioritized cabinet reshuffling than solving natural disaster-caused water outage and black out at Chiba prefecture.

Also major media of Japan prioritized topics about cabinet than reporting natural disaster damages.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Always put himself before Japan.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

"Should the president decide (to seek another term), I'd like to say...he can get support from the whole of the party," Hahaha, Japanese style.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I raise my glass to Prime minister Abe.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Jaoanese people can't figure out why their economy has been treading water for roughly three decades, why women are held down, or why they have antiquated rape and child protection laws but they keep voting for the old men that are out of touch with reality. Way, way too funny.

Intellectual laziness at its finest.

Sums up pretty well

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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