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Monday, August 27, 2007 9:30 pm

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Abe and his new Cabinet.

Photo: (c) Jiji Press.

Abe attempts to save his LDP with Cabinet reshuffle

Prime Minister Abe Shinzo carried out his scheduled ministerial reshuffle on Monday, which saw large parts of his scandal-ridden Cabinet replaced.

The pressure has been high on Abe to make more than just cosmetic changes to the make-up of the Cabinet after the historic defeat his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) was served by the opposition in the July 29 Upper House election. Some of the blame was laid on Abe, for appointing cronies from his own LDP faction to top positions.

Abe’s second Cabinet saw both new faces as well as old ones, among them several who had previously been members of one of former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s cabinets, such as Nobutaka Machimura, who returned as Foreign Minister, and Masahiko Komura, previously Justice and Foreign Minister, now appointed Defense Minister.

The Defense Minister post was previously held by Yuriko Koike, who was up until a much publicized recent vice minister replacement row widely expected to retain her position, announced she wished to resign to take the responsibility for the MSDF Aegis leak, notwithstanding that it had happened long before she was appointed Minister, on Saturday.

Some changes were also made to the absolute top leadership, although the Asahi Shimbun was critical of Abe once again “picking close aides”: Foreign Minister Taro Aso, often hyped as a possible “Post-Abe” LDP president, was made LDP secretary-general, one of the highest positions within the party, replacing Hidenao Nakagawa, as was expected since it had been leaked to national media during the weekend.

“The important task for the LDP is to regain the public trust and to address the people’s concerns about the future,” Aso was quoted saying by AP at the new Cabinet’s first press conference. Aso also went on to pledge for more communication between the LDP and the oppositional parties, a move that perhaps was only made necessary when the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) grabbed a majority of the seats in the upper house in the July election.

Former top policymaker Kaoru Yosano, Senior Vice Minister of Finance in one of Koizumi’s Cabinets was made Chief Cabinet Secretary, the post Abe himself held before he moved on to LDP president. “I believe Prime Minister Abe made appointments of those who can firmly assume their expected duties … I don’t believe there is any magical way to immediately restore support in the Cabinet,” AP quoted him as saying.

Diet Affairs Committee Chairman Toshihiro Nikai was appointed General Council chairman, one of the other top spots in the Cabinet.

The few who retained their posts were Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Minister Bunmei Ibuki, perhaps best known for his controversial remark that “women are like birth-giving machines,” Minister for Financial Services and Administrative Reform Yoshimi Watanabe, Minister for Economic and Fiscal Policy Hiroko Ota, Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Akira Amari and Land, Infrastructure and Transport Minister Tetsuzo Fuyushiba, the only Cabinet member from the LDP’s coalition partner New Komeito.

House of Representatives member Takehiko Endo was named Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister, a position that has seen a high number of profiles coming and going this year, starting with Toshikatsu Matsuoka’s suicide in May over a political funding scandal, and followed by Noriko Akagi, who was forced to resign over a similar offence.

The only two women included in the Cabinet were the Population and Gender Equality Minister, Yoko Kamikawa, and the Minister for Economic and Fiscal Policy, Hiroko Ota.

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