National / Politics

Abe eyes carrying out large-scale Cabinet reshuffle in mid-September

JIJI

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is looking at a large-scale reshuffle of his Cabinet and the Liberal Democratic Party leadership team, probably in mid-September, to be better prepared to tackle key policy challenges including constitutional amendments, it was learned Saturday.

The previous reshuffle, last October, featured the appointments of lawmakers who played major roles in Abe’s election to a third term as LDP president the previous month. This time, the prime minister hopes to put together a lineup that will help Abe reach his goals — such as amending the Constitution — during his final period in office, according to informed sources.

“Many are expected be replaced (in the reshuffle),” a senior government official said.

At a news conference on Aug. 6, Abe said he will take time to consider personnel affairs this summer. On Friday he left Tokyo for his retreat in Yamanashi Prefecture, where he will take about a week of vacation.

In selecting a new Cabinet and LDP executives, Abe is expected to give considerable thought to about two years left in his term as party leader and hence prime minister.

The biggest focus of the coming shake-ups is the fate of LDP Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai.

Some in the government and the LDP have proposed appointing Nikai as party vice president as the 80-year-old lawmaker has served in the current post for more than three years.

But others call for Nikai to be retained as secretary-general, noting that he can be a prop in the party amid a host of challenges such as the next election for the House of Representatives, the all-important Lower House of the Diet, and constitutional amendments.

“Who else can be secretary-general?” a party official asked.

Abe plans to give a weighty post to LDP Policy Research Council Chairman Fumio Kishida, a major candidate to replace Abe, the sources said. Members of the party’s Kishida faction hope he will be promoted to secretary-general.

But in the July election for the House of Councilors, the Diet’s upper chamber, four former lawmakers in the Kishida faction lost their seats, prompting a veteran party official to complain that the LDP cannot conduct election campaigns under Kishida.

Abe is considering the appointment of LDP Election Strategy Headquarters Chairman Akira Amari, a key ally, and party General Council Chairman Katsunobu Kato, a close aide, to major government posts, the sources said.

Shinjiro Koizumi, director of the LDP’s Health, Labor and Welfare Division, an up-and-coming politician who recently married, is rumored to be in line for a ministerial post for the first time.

Adding the 38-year-old popular Lower House lawmaker in his fourth term to the Cabinet lineup is expected to give a boost to Abe’s government.

In a monthly magazine this month, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga suggested that it is desirable Koizumi be given a ministerial post.

Suga and Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Taro Aso are likely to be retained. The two have supported Abe within the Cabinet ever since Abe returned to power in December 2012.

Many in the government and the LDP share the view that the linchpins of the government cannot be replaced.

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