Japan PM to reshuffle cabinet to re-energize economic agenda

TOKYO, Japan – Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is set to reshuffle his cabinet on Wednesday, September 3, in a bid to re-energize his economic and security agenda after his once stellar approval ratings began to wane.

Abe is scheduled to call an emergency cabinet meeting at around noon to collect letters of resignation from all ministers ahead of the planned reshuffle, local media said.

A new lineup of his cabinet is likely to be announced at around 2 pm (0500 GMT) before an imperial confirmation ceremony at the imperial palace, Jiji Press said.

The prime minister is expected to hold a news conference Wednesday evening.

Abe will retain the key figures of his administration – Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, Finance Minister Taro Aso, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga and state minister in charge of economic revitalization and trade talks Akira Amari, local media said.

But lesser roles could be vacated to make room for key Liberal Democratic Party figures who might otherwise cause trouble for the prime minister if left to languish on the back benches.

The staunch conservative premier had enjoyed sky-high public support when he came to power in December 2012 promising to kick-start Japan's sputtering economy.

But a series of bruising battles over a consumption tax hike and an unpopular move to water-down the pacifist constitution have taken some of the wind out of his sails.

A little less than two years into his tenure as prime minister, seeds of discontent in his often-fractious party are also beginning to emerge, as the restless ranks of politicians brought up on a system of age-based seniority agitate for a crack at a cabinet job.

It is thought likely that Abe might put his money where his mouth is after months of speeches in which he has implored and inveighed Japan Inc. to boost the number of women in senior jobs.

Press reports suggest he will appoint five female ministers, as he has proposed women occupy positions of power in Japanese society by 2020.

One woman expected to be a new economy, trade and industry minister is Yuko Obuchi, 40, the daughter of former premier Keizo Obuchi.

The reshuffle will be the first major surgery Abe has performed since coming to power, making the present cabinet one of the longest-serving collectives since the end of World War II.

Abe's own 20 months in the top job also marks him out as unusual in a country where, with precious few exceptions, premiers have tended to last little more than a year. – Rappler.com