Finance Minister Taro Aso and Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga are expected to remain in their posts when Prime Minister Shinzo Abe carries out a Cabinet reshuffle on Aug. 3, government and ruling coalition sources said Friday.
The prospective lineup indicates Abe is loath to tamper with the framework of a Cabinet that has supported the stable running of government during his second term in office.
Komeito, the junior coalition partner of Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party, is poised to request that its lawmaker Keiichi Ishii, who has held the post of transport minister for less than a year, remain in the post, the sources said.
The appointment of LDP executives is expected to take place at the same time as the Cabinet reshuffle.
With LDP Secretary-General Sadakazu Tanigaki recovering in a hospital from injuries sustained in a cycling accident, questions remain over his potential successor, with the likely list including Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida.
The reshuffle follows the ruling bloc’s strong performance in the July 10 House of Councilors election, in which it ran on a platform of continuing the Abenomics policy package of monetary easing, large-scale fiscal spending and structural reforms.
Abe has said the election gave him a mandate to move forward with Abenomics, and he will likely have the next stage of economic policies in mind when altering the Cabinet lineup.
According to a ruling coalition source, he is planning a “greater than midscale” shake-up in order to achieve a “strong new lineup” while retaining the core team of Suga and Aso, who doubles as deputy prime minister.
Olympics minister Toshiaki Endo is also expected to stay on in order to focus on preparations for the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics in Tokyo, the sources said.
But the two Cabinet ministers who lost their constituency races in the Upper House election are likely to be replaced. Justice Minister Mitsuhide Iwaki lost out in the Fukushima prefectural constituency, and Aiko Shimajiri, state minister in charge of issues related to Okinawa and the Northern Territories, fell short in the constituency representing Okinawa.
Abe is also planning to ditch Reconstruction Minister Tsuyoshi Takagi, plagued by political funding issues within his constituency, according to the sources.
Within the LDP executive, Abe has valued Tanigaki’s solid management of the party as secretary general and was tipped to keep him in the role before his hospitalization.
Abe will have to make his decision while observing Tanigaki’s recovery, but there is no sign yet of when the latter will be ready to return to work, the sources said.
Abe had been considering Suga as a potential replacement for Tanigaki but decided he was too valuable in the Cabinet, they said.
Apart from Kishida, former chief Cabinet secretary and Abe confidant Takeo Kawamura and former Reconstruction Minister Wataru Takeshita are being suggested within the party as possible successors, according to the sources.
The Upper House election also installed a sufficient number of lawmakers supportive of reforming the Constitution to begin debating a potential amendment, which would need to be put to a national referendum.
Abe has long sought to amend the Constitution and will likely aim to keep the debate moving fast, starting with an extraordinary session of the Diet in the fall.
Cross-party constitutional review commissions in each Diet chamber are tasked with picking over proposed amendments. In selecting the heads of the commissions, Abe may seek heavyweights who have a good rapport with the opposition.
A Cabinet reshuffle on Aug. 3 would come in time to include Endo and sports minister Hiroshi Hase, who are scheduled to depart Japan the following day to attend the opening ceremony of the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
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