GR Japan report on the Cabinet and LDP leadership reshuffle
As has been widely anticipated since June, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida reshuffled his Cabinet on 13 September in a bid to stabilize his waning popularity. Top LDP party positions were also decided, although many key persons remain in office, a theme we also saw in the Cabinet reshuffle. There has been speculation about a possible snap election since the end of the G7 summit in May, but the Cabinet shakeup provided little insight. On the night of the Cabinet reshuffle, Kishida announced that he would compile a set of “drastic” economic measures but did not clarify when the supplementary budget for the measures would be passed, leaving open the possibility of a snap election as early as this fall.
Until the very last moment, it seemed there would be no significant changes and that Kishida would play it safe rather than introducing a major overhaul. Expectations were that many LDP veterans and strongmen would stay in position or move to other senior posts, prioritizing internal party politics rather than looking to increase popularity with fresh appointments. In the end, there are 11 new Cabinet ministers out of the total of 19, with the two most notable changes being former Justice Minister Yoko Kamikawa’s appointment as Minister for Foreign Affairs, replacing Yoshimasa Hayashi, a close ally of Kishida and second in line in his faction, and Minoru Kihara, who replaced Yasukazu Hamada as Defense Minister. Surprise reappointments are Taro Kono and Sanae Takaichi, who were both expected to leave.
Results of the Cabinet and party reshuffle show that Kishida aimed to strike a balance between revitalizing his administration’s popularity and maintaining a sense of continuity. Keeping close allies and old friends in key posts (with the exception of Hayashi) reveals his intention to pave the way for a stable path to September 2024 when the next LDP presidential election will take place. Keeping potential rivals like Toshimitsu Motegi, Taro Kono, Sanae Takaichi, Koichi Hagiuda and Yasutoshi Nishimura in key positions will prevent them from becoming vocal critics of or potential challengers to Kishida’s leadership.
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