The Yomiuri ShimbunPrime Minister Shinzo Abe intends to reshuffle his Cabinet and the Liberal Democratic Party leadership as early as late August, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned.
The regular Diet session essentially ended Friday, ahead of its official close on Sunday.
The opposition parties appear ready to increase their offensives on the administration over issues such as the creation of a new veterinary department by the Kake Educational Institution. To deal with this, as well as prepare for drafting a bill to revise the Constitution and carrying out work style reforms in autumn and later, Abe has judged that a new structure is needed, according to government and LDP sources.
Administration stalwarts Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga and Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Taro Aso are strongly expected to remain, as is LDP Secretary General Toshihiro Nikai.
It would be the first Cabinet reshuffle since August last year after the House of Councillors election.
The government is making arrangements to convene an extraordinary Diet session in late September, so Abe wants enough time from reshuffling the Cabinet to convene the Diet session to prepare for Diet debates with the opposition.
Changes to the LDP leadership, which are usually carried out in September, would be done earlier, in sync with the Cabinet reshuffle, the sources said.
Suga and Aso have been important members of Abe’s cabinets since his second administration launched in December 2012. Suga handles policy coordination and risk management at the Prime Minister’s Office, and is a conduit to the ruling coalition.
He is expected to almost certainly remain. “Nobody’s been found who could replace him,” said a source in the Prime Minister’s Office.
Aso, who Abe trusts deeply, is also not expected to be replaced, partly because the Japan-U.S. Economic Dialogue is getting into full swing. Aso leads the dialogue alongside U.S. Vice President Mike Pence.
Attention is focused on how Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida will be handled. Kishida has also served in Abe’s Cabinet since the start, and is seen as having “post-Abe” ambitions.
The prime minister trusts him deeply, so many expect him to remain. However, a member of Kishida’s faction said, “He should leave the Cabinet to prepare for the [LDP] presidential election.”
The fate of Defense Minister Tomomi Inada, who was criticized over a scandal involving the daily logs of the Ground Self-Defense Force unit engaged in peacekeeping operations in South Sudan, is also a focus of attention.
In addition, some in the government and LDP think Justice Minister Katsutoshi Kaneda, who was inconsistent in answering questions in the Diet regarding the revised Law on Punishment of Organized Crimes and Control of Crime Proceeds, will likely be replaced.
Nikai is seen as highly likely to continue as LDP secretary general, to help pave the way for extending the limit on terms for a party president, and for the active role he plays in diplomatic relations with lawmakers of nearby countries.