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Kishida rejigs cabinet as support wanes

By JIANG XUEQING in Tokyo | China Daily | Updated: 2023-09-14 08:04
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Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida poses with his new cabinet at his official residence in Tokyo, Japan, September 13, 2023. [Photo/Agencies]

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida reshuffled his cabinet on Wednesday in an attempt to boost its image amid sluggish approval ratings.

The second cabinet reshuffle by Kishida since last year included changes to 13 out of 19 ministers, with 11 of them entering cabinet for the first time.

There are five women in the new cabinet, compared with only two female members in the previous cabinet. Analysts said this move is to showcase his commitment to gender equality reforms.

The reshuffle came as support ratings for Kishida's cabinet have continued to slide, with last month almost hitting the lowest level since he took office in October 2021, amid soaring prices in the absence of salary hikes and raging public frustration over the "My Number "national identification card system.

An opinion poll by Japanese public broadcaster NHK showed that before the reshuffle, the approval rating for the Kishida cabinet was 36 percent, while the disapproval rating was 43 percent.

More than 1,200 people nationwide responded to the telephone survey conducted from Friday to Sunday. As for the reasons on not supporting the cabinet, 47 percent of respondents said they had "no expectations for policies", 24 percent mentioned the "lack of execution capability" and 11 percent cited "distrust in the personality".

As inflation continues to weigh on the minds of the Japanese, many people complained about the lack of cost-cutting measures and tax reduction policies.

High cost of living

"Those who support the LDP(Liberal Democratic Party) government, have your lives improved with the high cost of living and increased taxes? Please face reality," a netizen said in a comment on Yahoo News.

Fusaho Izumi, former mayor of Akashi in Hyogo Prefecture, noted on social media on Tuesday that there is little sense of innovation in the cabinet reshuffle and personnel changes to LDP executives.

Although there are some adjustments, key figures such as Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno, Finance Minister Shunichi Suzuki and Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura have retained their positions, reflecting Kishida's attempt to maintain the core of his administration and secure political stability by placing party faction leaders and senior members in key positions, experts said.

Amid reports of the planned cabinet reshuffle, Katsuya Okada, secretary-general of the Constitutional Democratic Party, said at a news conference on Tuesday, "From what I've heard, I get the feeling that there is no sense of renewal."

Also on Wednesday, Kishida retained Toshimitsu Motegi as the LDP's secretary-general and Taro Aso as vice-president in a reshuffle of party executives.

Kishida hopes to win reelection in the LDP's presidential election next year. The retention of both Aso and Motegi, veteran lawmakers heading the second- and third-largest factions within the party respectively, is seen as essential by Kishida for ensuring stable administration management, Kyodo News quoted sources as saying.


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