Some 60 ruling party lawmakers hoping to land a ministerial post for the first time in a possible Cabinet reshuffle next month are increasingly growing anxious over Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s health.
The Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers on the waiting list are concerned that a Cabinet shake-up could be skipped or that only a few ministers may be replaced even if a reshuffle takes place, depending on the state of Abe’s health, informed sources said.
In the LDP, posts are usually given to party lawmakers who have served five terms in the Lower House or three in the Upper House.
The next Cabinet reshuffle is expected to be carried out at the same time as the appointments of new LDP executives to replace current members in senior posts, whose terms of office are set to end in late September.
As Abe’s health is believed to be poor, however, a party official said that a Cabinet reshuffle is difficult under the current atmosphere.
If the Cabinet is reshuffled, opposition parties would certainly increase their calls for the government to convene an extraordinary session of the Diet to give them an opportunity to examine policies of newly appointed ministers, some sources said.
“Skipping a Cabinet shake-up could be an option” for Abe, a government official said, noting that facing the opposition side in parliamentary debates would be a heavy burden for the prime minister with his health issues.
A lawmaker on the waiting list said that most of the current ministers, including those playing central roles in the country’s ongoing fight against the novel coronavirus, may be retained even if a reshuffle takes place.
Major candidates for top spots among the lawmakers on the waiting list include Shinsuke Okuno, former state minister of internal affairs and communications, and former Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Kotaro Nogami. Both belong to the largest LDP faction, led by former LDP Secretary-General Hiroyuki Hosoda. Okuno has been elected to the Lower House five times and Nogami to the Upper House three times.
The LDP faction led by Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso plans to propose Shinji Inoue, former state minister of environment, and Shintaro Ito, former state minister of foreign affairs, as candidates for ministerial posts. They are both in their sixth terms as Lower House members.
Possible candidates in the faction led by former LDP General Council Chairman Wataru Takeshita include Asahiko Mihara, the former parliamentary vice minister of defense, who has been elected to the Lower House eight times.
An LDP official said that a certain number of lawmakers need to be picked as first-time ministers from the waiting list.
Still, a veteran LDP lawmaker disagreed, saying that “I think it’s difficult to carry out a Cabinet reshuffle” under the current circumstances.