• POLITICS & GOVERNMENT

Kishida Mulls Candidates for Cabinet, Party Reshuffle amid Stubborn Poll Numbers

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, center, with LDP Secretary General Toshimitsu Motegi, left, and party Vice President Taro Aso at a meeting of LDP executives on Tuesday.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has tough decisions ahead for a planned Cabinet reshuffle, which could come as early as next week.

He has also begun considering whom to appoint to leadership positions in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, which he heads.

While there is a growing expectation within the LDP of new faces, any drastic shake-up will entail some risk. Kishida is in the difficult position of also having to balance party factions.

Right person, right place

“The schedule in September will be tight due to many overseas trips, so I’d like to ask for your cooperation in keeping the administration running smoothly,” Kishida said in a meeting of party executives on Tuesday morning.

“Reshuffles are all about having the right person in the right place,” he told reporters before leaving for an overseas trip on the same day.

The Cabinet’s approval rating has remained low lately, with 35% saying they supported the administration in a nationwide poll conducted in August by The Yomiuri Shimbun, with 56% of respondents saying that they thought the Cabinet and party leadership should be reshuffled.

The prime minister reportedly told those around him that he has not yet decided anything. Likely, he will first decide what to do with core members of his administration, including Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno, Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi, LDP Vice President Taro Aso and party Secretary General Toshimitsu Motegi.

If Kishida keeps on all core members, it may diminish the sense of change. But many LDP members believe that it would be better this way. “The current administration has a certain stability to it,” one member said.

Possible appointments of women are also being talked about, as such moves could quickly change the feel of the Cabinet. Those whose names have been floated include Yuko Obuchi, chairperson of the LDP’s Organization and Campaign Headquarters, and party Acting Secretary General Yoko Kamikawa.

Posts might also be handed to young or high-profile lawmakers as well as those in the private-sector. Former party Secretary General Shigeru Ishiba, an experienced politician, expressed his intention to join the Cabinet if asked.

Confusion in the ruling bloc

Kishida will also have to balance LDP factions. With 45 members, Kishida’s own faction is the fourth largest in the party, leaving him little choice but to consider the wants of other factions.

Each faction has members who have been elected to the House of Representatives at least five times or to the House of Councillors at least three times but who have not been in a cabinet. The factions have been informing the prime minister of their desired appointments.

An executive of the party’s largest faction, which has 100 members and was once headed by the late former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, reportedly asked the prime minister to not only keep in the Cabinet its current four members but to also add a few more new members from the faction.

The post of land, infrastructure, transport and tourism minister is another hot topic. The post has been held by Komeito since December 2012, when the LDP and Komeito regained power. Due to the post’s considerable influence over industries that can be used to garner votes, some LDP members have insisted on taking the post back. But Komeito is unlikely to yield it. “The post is well suited to Komeito,” said Komeito Secretary General Keiichi Ishii.

Meanwhile, some within the ruling parties are unsure what to do after the prime minister departed for an overseas trip without explaining the reshuffle timeline at the meeting of party leaders.

It is believed the reshuffles will most likely occur from Sept. 11 to 13 after Kishida returns from his trip. “We have been unable to pin down a schedule for next week, and this might affect the work of government offices,” a Cabinet member said.