• Kyodo

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Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is considering putting off a planned reshuffle of his Cabinet and the leadership of the Liberal Democratic Party until late December to focus on key policy issues, including the consumption tax hike, according to sources.

There have been rumblings that Abe will change his roster next month, but instead he’ll keep the lineup intact to thank them for the ruling bloc’s big win in the July Upper House election, the sources said Wednesday.

He also doesn’t want any shake-ups distracting his team ahead of the crucial decision this fall on whether to increase the consumption tax in April as planned.

Keeping the Cabinet and LDP leadership intact could help maintain momentum ahead of the Diet debates this autumn over Abe’s key policy goals on reviving the economy and revising the pacifist Constitution to enhance Japan’s defense capabilities.

“We have to face challenging issues this fall,” Abe told a meeting Wednesday of LDP members who just won their first seats in the Diet. “If we falter, then that would mean an end to the LDP,” he said.

Abe met with LDP Secretary-General Shigeru Ishiba at the prime minister’s office earlier in the day. The No. 2 man in the party is widely expected to retain his post.

It’s possible Abe will reshuffle the Cabinet in late December, after the administration drafts the fiscal 2014 budget, the sources said. This would allow him to face the ordinary Diet session starting in January with new ministers and party executives.

He will still likely change the lineup of senior vice ministers and parliamentary secretaries next month to let relatively young lawmakers gain experience in those posts, the sources said.

This is designed to prevent discontent among younger lawmakers eager to assume senior posts, they said.

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