Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi may reshuffle his Cabinet in the fall if he is re-elected LDP president in September, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda indicated Monday.
Fukuda was commenting on media reports that Koizumi plans to reshuffle the Cabinet in the immediate wake of the Liberal Democratic Party poll — as a gesture of compromise toward LDP lawmakers who oppose his economic policies.
“The Koizumi Cabinet has served for more than two years now, and usually one would expect that there will be one or two more Cabinet reshuffles,” Fukuda told a news conference.
“Some people (in the LDP) feel that new faces should be put into the Cabinet, while there are some (Cabinet ministers) like myself who are totally worn out.”
Fukuda has served as the top government spokesman since October 2000 under Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori. As of June 2, he became the longest serving chief Cabinet secretary in postwar history.
If re-elected, Koizumi will have three more years to serve as the party’s head.
Koizumi brushed aside the question of a Cabinet reshuffle during his daily appearance before the media, stating that no one knows who will be elected in the LDP leadership poll.
But he reiterated the view that there will be no reshuffle before the September poll.
Koizumi’s critics within the LDP have called for a reshuffle before the party poll as a precondition for Koizumi’s re-election. They especially want to see Financial Services Minister Heizo Takenaka replaced in order to effect an economic policy turnaround and a return to big government spending.
While he has rejected calls for a pre-election reshuffle, Koizumi reportedly told Mikio Aoki, secretary general of the LDP’s Upper House caucus, earlier this month that he plans to reshuffle the Cabinet immediately after the poll.
Aoki is a key man in bridging the gap between Koizumi and his LDP critics.
By showing signs of compromise, Koizumi is apparently seeking to secure widespread support for his re-election.
Meanwhile, Koizumi and the leaders of his coalition partners, New Komeito and New Conservative Party, agreed Monday evening to extend the current Diet session for 40 days until July 28.
An extension is necessary for debate on an Iraq reconstruction bill that was submitted to the Diet last week.
The session, which began Jan. 20, is scheduled to end Wednesday. The plan will be finalized with the agreement of the House of Representatives and the House of Councilors.
The government and the ruling parties aim to enact the new Iraq law by the end of the extended session. It is not clear how quickly the bill will be passed, as opposition parties have voiced caution over its contents.
The coalition also agreed to pass a bill aimed at extending the antiterrorism law by two years after it expires in November. The extension is to enable Japan to continue providing fuel to U.S.-led forces operating in and around Afghanistan.
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