Kishida replaces Cabinet ministers; Hayashi Becomes Chief Cabinet Secretary; Economy, Communications and Agriculture Ministers Also Changed (UPDATE 2)

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida enters the Prime Minister’s Office on Thursday morning.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida replaced four ministers and five senior vice ministers on Thursday in response to allegations that members of the Liberal Democratic Party’s Abe faction received off-the-books kickbacks from political fundraising party revenue.

Talking to the media Thursday evening, Kishida explained that he appointed the new cabinet members “based on the need for an immediate force with the ability to coordinate, execute, and answer questions,” while emphasizing that “next year will be a critical year for Japan in terms of diplomacy, economy, and society.”

Among Cabinet ministers, Kishida appointed Yoshimasa Hayashi, 62, a former foreign minister who is a member of the Kishida faction, as the new chief cabinet secretary. Hayashi had told reporters in Tokyo on Thursday morning, “I will make a sincere effort to fully demonstrate my capabilities under very difficult circumstances.”

Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno submitted a resignation letter to the prime minister on Thursday morning, and so did Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura; Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Junji Suzuki; and Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Ichiro Miyashita. All four are from the Abe faction.

“Various allegations have been made about political funds, and trust in politics has been shaken. I have submitted my resignation to the prime minister so that there will be no delay in national politics,” Matsuno said at a press conference.

The prime minister appointed Ken Saito, a former justice minister affiliated with no faction, as the new economy, trade and industry minister; Takeaki Matsumoto, a former internal affairs minister from the Aso faction, as the new internal affairs minister; and Tetsushi Sakamoto, former state minister for regional revitalization from the Moriyama faction — led by LDP general council chairperson Hiroshi Moriyama — as agriculture minister.

Toshiko Abe, a former senior vice minister of foreign affairs who is affiliated with no faction, was appointed senior vice minister of education, culture, sports, science and technology. She is the first female senior vice minister in the reshuffled second Kishida Cabinet, which was inaugurated in September.

Atsushi Koga, a former senior vice minister of health, labor and welfare from Kishida’s faction, replaced Manabu Horii as senior vice minister of the Cabinet Office. Koichi Hagiuda, chairperson of the LDP’s Policy Research Council; Tsuyoshi Takagi, chairperson of the LDP’s Diet Affairs Committee; and Hiroshige Seko, the LDP’s secretary general in the House of Councillors, also submitted their resignations on Thursday.

Kishida said on Thursday that he would also make personnel changes of party officials within this year.

After submitting his resignation to the prime minister, Hagiuda told reporters at the Prime Minister’s Office, “I feel responsible for causing suspicion among the public over the fundraising party accounting, which has led to political distrust.”

The Yomiuri Shimbun