National / Politics

Abe shakes up LDP leadership, but retains key party heavyweights

Kyodo, JIJI

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Wednesday appointed Olympics minister Shunichi Suzuki as chairman of the Liberal Democratic Party’s General Council in a shake-up of the party leadership.

Abe also picked former education minister Hakubun Shimomura as head of the LDP’s Election Strategy Committee, while retaining Toshihiro Nikai as secretary-general and Fumio Kishida as policy chief.

Suzuki replaced Katsunobu Kato, who Abe is set to reappoint as minister of health, labor and welfare, in a Cabinet reshuffle later Wednesday.

Shimomura, who has led the LDP’s panel on constitutional revision, succeeds Akira Amari, who took up the post of chairman of the party’s tax committee.

Nikai has served in the No. 2 party post since 2016. The 80-year-old heavyweight is known as an internal broker and credited with guiding the LDP to victory in recent national elections.

Kishida, who served as foreign minister from 2012 to 2017, is considered a potential successor to Abe, whose term as LDP president, and therefore prime minister, expires in 2021.

Following the launch of his new Cabinet, Abe, 64, is expected to ramp up efforts to cement his political legacy, focusing on achieving his long-held goal of revising the war-renouncing Constitution during the two years left in his term as LDP president.

“Under the new organization, we will strongly push forward as one united party with our long-standing wish to revise the Constitution,” Abe told a meeting of party executives.

“The citizens’ understanding is of utmost importance,” he added.

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