TOKYO (AP) — Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is reshuffling his Cabinet and key party posts on Wednesday in an apparent move to strengthen his position ahead of a major party leadership vote next year.
It is the second cabinet reshuffle since Kishida took office in October 2021, when he promised a fair distribution of economic growth, measures to deal with Japan’s declining population and a strong national defense. Russia’s war in Ukraine, rising energy prices and Japan’s rising defense costs have posed challenges to his tenure, keeping his support ratings at low levels.
Kishida’s three-year term as chairman of the Liberal Democratic Party expires in September 2024, when he will seek a second term. His faction is only the fourth largest in the LDP, so he has to maintain good relations with others to maintain his position.
He distributed cabinet posts to reflect the balance of power, and about half the posts are shared between the two largest factions linked to late leader Shinzo Abe and former leader Taro Aso.
His Cabinet resigned en masse in a formal meeting on Wednesday before Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno announced the new lineup.
Kishida appointed five women to his 19-member Cabinet. They currently have two, and would match the five under Abe’s 2014 cabinet and one in 2001 under then-Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.
One of them, former Justice Minister Yoko Kamikawa, takes over as Foreign Minister, replacing Yoshimasa Hayashi. Kamikawa and Hayashi are both from Kishida’s own faction.
Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura, Finance Minister Shunichi Suzuki, Digital Reform Minister Taro Kono and Economic Security Minister Sanae Takaichi were among the six who stayed.
Kishida retained his main intraparty rival Toshimitsu Motegi at the No. 2 post in the party and retained faction veterans such as Aso in other key party positions.
Kishida is expected to craft a new economic package to tackle rising gasoline and food prices, which will be needed to support low-income families while continuing to raise wages and garner public support.
The two figures were affected by recent scandals and were expected to lose positions in the shakeup.
Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Tetsuro Nomura was rebuked and apologized by Kishida after he called treated radioactive waste water from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant “contaminated,” a term China uses to describe water that is unsafe. . And magazine reports include allegations that Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Seiji Kihara influenced his wife’s police investigation into the suspicious death of her ex-husband.
Kishida last reshuffled his Cabinet a year ago, following Abe’s assassination after links between senior ruling party members and the South Korea-based ultra-conservative sect Unification Church were revealed.
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Mari Yamaguchi, The Associated Press