Abe Shuffles Cabinet
|PM Abe and new cabinet|
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe carried out Wednesday his first Cabinet reshuffle since returning to office in December 2012 with the aim of tightening his grip on power.
Abe retained close allies such as Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga and Finance Minister Taro Aso in key posts while increasing the number of female ministers to a record-tying five from two in line with his policy of raising women's status in society.
Among the five, Yuko Obuchi, the second daughter of the late Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi, was appointed trade minister, and Sanae Takaichi will serve as internal affairs minister after holding the position as chief of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party's Policy Research Council.
Junichiro Koizumi's Cabinet had five female ministers between April 2001 and September 2002.
Abe has set a goal of raising the proportion of women in leadership positions in both the public and private sectors to at least 30 percent by 2020.
Also on the roster is health minister Yasuhisa Shiozaki, a former chief Cabinet secretary who supports reform of the Government Pension Investment Fund by diversifying investments.
The reshuffle came as Abe faces a host of challenges at home and abroad, including whether to go ahead with another tax hike after the economy was shaken by a consumption tax increase in April, and whether ties with China and South Korea, frayed over territorial and history disputes, can be repaired.
LDP Secretary General Shigeru Ishiba, a potential rival to Abe in a future party leadership race, took one of the two newly created Cabinet posts, which is aimed at boosting regional economies.
Ishiba had declined Abe's offer of another new post to work on national security legislation, saying the differences in views between him and Abe will be targets of criticism from opposition parties if he were to speak from that position in parliamentary debate.
The post of security legislation minister was assumed by former Senior Vice Defense Minister Akinori Eto, who will double as defense minister.
The public approval rating for the Abe Cabinet has recently dropped to around 50 percent from a peak of over 70 percent several months after the launch of his second administration in December 2012.
When Abe first served as prime minister in 2006 and 2007, his Cabinet was short-lived. But his just-dissolved one set a post-World War II record as the longest-serving Cabinet with no changes in its lineup at 617 days.
Earlier Wednesday, Abe's LDP endorsed the appointment of new executives, led by Sadakazu Tanigaki as secretary general. Tanigaki was LDP leader when the Democratic Party of Japan was in power from 2009 to 2012.
Tomomi Inada, state minister in charge of administrative reform, was named chairwoman of the LDP Policy Research Council, while Toshihiro Nikai, head of the House of Representatives Budget Committee, will chair the LDP decision-making General Council.