TOKYO — Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Wednesday reshuffled his Cabinet, replacing 13 for the 19-member Cabinet, including foreign affairs, defense and economic policy ministers, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno announced.
But Kishida, 66, retained several key members, including the top government spokesman Matsuno, Finance Minister Shunichi Suzuki and industry minister Yasutoshi Nishimura.
The premier boosted the female presence in his administration, appointing former Justice Minister Yoko Kamikawa, one of five women who joined the Cabinet, as foreign minister.
The shakeup comes one year after Kishida launched the current Cabinet, for which support rates has recently been declining in various opinion polls, due to such problems as the “My Number” personal identification system, and public frustration over rising prices in the absence of salary hikes.
Ahead of the official announcement, he also changed the ruling Liberal Democratic Party executive lineup. The new Cabinet members will later go to the Imperial Palace for an attestation ceremony
Kishida tapped a record-tying five women as ministers including its top diplomat, in a bid to boost his government’s popularity amid speculation that he is exploring the best timing to dissolve the House of Representatives for a snap election.
Kishida, a dovish moderate, hopes the revamp will help pave the way for his Liberal Democratic Party to emerge victorious again from the next lower house election and strengthen support from within his party before the LDP presidential race next year.
Out of 19 ministers, Kishida selected 11 new faces as he moves to create a fresh image for his Cabinet, while retaining several key members to maintain stability with Kamikawa, a veteran lawmaker, becoming the first female foreign minister in around two decades.
Given the desire for policy continuity, Kishida retained Digital Minister Taro Kono, a Georgetown University graduate and popular figure who has previously served as foreign minister, to tackle the My Number card problems.
Among the new faces, Minoru Kihara, who served as a special adviser to former Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, was tapped as defense minister. Kihara is a senior member of a bipartisan group promoting ties with Taiwan.
Other new Cabinet members include health minister Keizo Takemi, reconstruction minister Shinako Tsuchiya and farm minister Ichiro Miyashita.
Noting that Japan has turned change into an opportunity so far, Kishida named his new team a “Cabinet that will make change a strength.” He said his government will put emphasis on the economy, social affairs, diplomacy and security as its policy “pillars.”
Asked about what he expects from the five female ministers, Kishida said at a press conference after the second Cabinet reshuffle since he took office in October 2021 that he hopes they will “make the most of their female sensibilities.”
As part of efforts to bolster his support, Kishida was keen to expand the number of female ministers in a country notorious for its slow progress in women’s empowerment. A World Economic Forum report said earlier this year that Japan ranked 138th out of 146 nations in gender equality in politics.
But Kishida’s failure to give major posts to newcomers may limit the public impact of his new Cabinet, the experts added. The average age of the latest Cabinet members, including Kishida, is 63.5. Land minister Tetsuo Saito, the only member from the LDP’s junior coalition partner Komeito, and two others are the oldest at 71. Kato is the youngest at 44.
Earlier Wednesday, Kishida, who heads the LDP, changed the ruling party’s leadership. Among its four key executives, he retained 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 selection of Obuchi appears to be another move to freshen up a roster otherwise dominated by male lawmakers and comes despite her resignation as industry minister in 2014 following a political funds misuse scandal.
At the news conference, Kishida pledged that his new Cabinet will try to map out a fresh economic stimulus package by the end of next month, as price hikes have been dragging down domestic demand. — Agencies