Japan PM Kishida to reshuffle Cabinet amid sluggish support rates

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is set to reshuffle his Cabinet and ruling party leadership Wednesday, tapping a record five women as ministers in a bid to reverse the declining trend in the popularity of his government.

Kishida, a dovish moderate, hopes the personnel revamp will give a boost to his administration, paving the way for his Liberal Democratic Party to win in the next lower house election and strengthening his political foundation before the LDP presidential race in 2024.

In pursuit of bringing a fresh image to his Cabinet, Kishida has selected 11 new faces while keeping several key ministers to maintain stability. Former Justice Minister Yoko Kamikawa, a veteran female lawmaker, is expected to be named foreign minister.

Finance Minister Shunichi Suzuki, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno and industry minister Yasutoshi Nishimura are likely to remain in their positions, senior government sources said. Matsuno and Nishimura are known as conservative politicians.

The reshuffle comes as support rates for Kishida's Cabinet have continued to slide due partly to problems with the "My Number" national identification card system and public frustration over rising prices without salary hikes.

Given the desire for policy continuity, Kishida plans to retain Digital Minister Taro Kono, a Georgetown University graduate and popular lawmaker who has served as foreign minister, to tackle the My Number issue, the sources said.

Among new faces, Minoru Kihara, who served as a special advisor to former Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, is expected to be tapped as defense minister, Keizo Takemi as health minister, Shinako Tsuchiya as reconstruction minister and Ichiro Miyashita as farm minister.

Regarding the LDP's four key party executives, Kishida plans to retain Toshimitsu Motegi and Koichi Hagiuda as secretary general and policy chief, respectively, while picking Yuko Obuchi, the 49-year-old daughter of late Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi, as election campaign chief, the sources said.

The selection of Obuchi apparently aims to rejuvenate the image of the executive lineup otherwise dominated by male politicians, despite her prior resignation as industry minister in 2014 amid a political funds scandal.

Obuchi is likely to replace Hiroshi Moriyama, who is expected to become chief of the general council, the sources said.

Kishida, who leads the LDP's fourth-largest faction, also decided to retain Vice President Taro Aso, head of its second-biggest group, to secure a balanced distribution of power within the party, the sources said. Motegi is the leader of the LDP's third-largest faction.

Matsuno, Nishimura and Hagiuda are key members of the biggest conservative intraparty group, once led by former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Japan's longest-serving prime minister who was fatally shot during an election campaign speech in 2022.

After the reshuffle, Kishida will craft economic steps to deal with price hikes, consider how to fund his flagship child-rearing policy, and address issues related to the release of treated radioactive water from the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant.

© Kyodo News