• Kyodo News


State minister Akira Amari on Tuesday called for the Cabinet to be reshuffled after the fiscal 2009 budget is passed to boost public confidence in Prime Minister Taro Aso, whose poll numbers are plummeting.

Amari, minister of state in charge of regulatory, administrative and civil service reforms, said Aso’s Cabinet “could draw attention again through a sweeping reshuffle that would utilize various human resources.”

Amari suggested making the changes when Aso alleviates the burden on Kaoru Yosano, who is pulling triple duty as finance minister, minister of financial services and minister of economic and fiscal policy.

“Boldly scaling up a minor reshuffle at that time is one option,” Amari said.

Aso has hinted he will review Yosano’s situation once the Diet passes the budget, but political experts say it is extremely unusual for a serving minister to call for a reshuffle.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura said at a separate news conference that a Cabinet reshuffle is the prime minister’s call. He was echoed by Liberal Democratic Party Secretary General Hiroyuki Hosoda.

A senior member of New Komeito, the LDP’s coalition partner, told reporters Amari’s remark was puzzling and he shouldn’t make waves.

Recent media polls indicate support for the Aso Cabinet plunged after Yosano’s predecessor, Shoichi Nakagawa, stepped down as finance minister Feb. 18 amid accusations he was drunk during a Feb. 14 news conference after a Group of Seven meeting in Rome.

A Mainichi Shimbun poll published Monday put the Cabinet’s approval rate at a mere 11 percent, down 8 points from January.

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