Photo/IllutrationPrime Minister Shinzo Abe, center, meets with other executives of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party on Aug. 3. From right, policy chief Fumio Kishida, Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai, Abe and LDP Vice President Masahiko Komura (Takeshi Iwashita)

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reshuffled his Cabinet on Aug. 3, appointing ministers from outside his close circle of political allies in a bid to halt declining support ratings.

Seiko Noda has been chosen as minister of internal affairs and communications. Noda had distanced herself from the Abe administration ever since she considered a run against Abe for the presidency of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party in 2015.

By bringing Noda into the Cabinet, Abe is trying to demonstrate a more united party by including with a wide range of voices.

Taro Kono will take over as foreign minister. He has been considered as a potential party leader in the post-Abe era as well.

At an LDP meeting on Aug. 3, Abe acknowledged the falling Cabinet support ratings in touching upon the new party executives and Cabinet lineup.

"We are facing the harsh eyes of the public," Abe said. "I have deeply reflected on my responsibility for having brought about such a situation. Through a new lineup, I want to build up a stable political foundation in order to push forward policy decisions."

Abe also turned to veteran lawmakers to take charge of ministries that were subjected to harsh criticism from the opposition over recent scandals.

The education ministry is still embroiled over questions about possible favorable treatment toward Kake Educational Institution in its plan to open a veterinary medicine faculty. The institution is headed by a close friend of Abe.

Taking over as education minister will be Yoshimasa Hayashi, who has previously served in a number of Cabinet posts, including defense minister and farm minister.

Those who were subject to harsh Diet questioning over the Kake plan were moved out of the Abe Cabinet. In addition to Hirokazu Matsuno, the former education minister, Kozo Yamamoto, is being replaced as state minister in charge of regional revitalization, while Koichi Hagiuda loses his position as deputy chief Cabinet secretary. Questions had been raised about the roles played by Yamamoto and Hagiuda in the process involving Kake Educational Institution's new faculty.

The new defense minister is Itsunori Onodera, who will be serving for the second time. His predecessor, Tomomi Inada, resigned last week to take responsibility for the Defense Ministry's handling of daily reports compiled by Ground Self-Defense Force units that participated in U.N. peacekeeping operations in South Sudan.

Inada had been considered a political protege of Abe, but she had previously faced other questions about her ability to serve as defense minister, including a statement during a campaign speech that appeared to promote the SDF for political purposes.

With Inada no longer in the Cabinet, Abe will only have two women in his reshuffled top team despite past pledges to provide greater opportunities for women. There were three female ministers in the previous Cabinet. Besides Noda, Yoko Kamikawa will now serve as justice minister.

Before announcing his new Cabinet lineup on the afternoon of Aug. 3, Abe picked the top party executives who will help him manage the LDP.

He retained Masahiko Komura as party vice president and Toshihiro Nikai as secretary-general.

Fumio Kishida, who had served as foreign minister since December 2012 when Abe began his second stint as prime minister, is leaving the Cabinet to become chairman of the Policy Research Council, a position he had lobbied for.

Kishida is also considered a possible successor to Abe as prime minister.

Taking over as chairman of the LDP General Council will be Wataru Takeshita, who as LDP Diet Affairs Committee chairman was involved in often contentious discussions with opposition party counterparts who demanded Cabinet ministers and others appear before the Diet session that concluded in June to respond to questions about scandals involving educational institutions and SDF documents.

Ryu Shionoya was named director-general of the party's Election Strategy Committee.

* * *

Lineup of new Abe Cabinet

*Prime Minister:

Shinzo Abe, 62, Lower House, LDP

*Deputy Prime Minister/ Finance Minister:

Taro Aso, 76, Lower House, LDP

*Minister for Internal Affairs and Communications/ Minister in charge of women's empowerment:

Seiko Noda, 56, Lower House, LDP

*Justice Minister:

Yoko Kamikawa, 64, Lower House, LDP

*Foreign Minister:

Taro Kono, 54, Lower House, LDP

*Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology:

Yoshimasa Hayashi, 56, Upper House, LDP

*Minister of Health, Labor and Welfare/ Minister in charge of abduction issue:

Katsunobu Kato, 61, Lower House, LDP

*Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries:

Ken Saito, 58, Lower House, LDP

*Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry:

Hiroshige Seko, 54, Upper House, LDP

* Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism:

Keiichi Ishii, 59, Lower House, Komeito

*Environment Minister:

Masaharu Nakagawa, 70, Upper House, LDP

*Defense Minister:

Itsunori Onodera, 57, Lower House, LDP

*Chief Cabinet Secretary:

Yoshihide Suga, 68, Lower House, LDP

*Minister for reconstruction:

Masayoshi Yoshino, 68, Lower House, LDP

*National Public Safety Commission Chairman:

Hachiro Okonogi, 52, Lower House, LDP

*Minister for Okinawa and Northern Territories Affairs:

Tetsuma Esaki, 73, Lower House, LDP

*Minister for economic revitalization/ Minister for "people-creating" reform:

Toshimitsu Motegi, 61, Lower House, LDP

*Minister for promoting dynamic engagement of all citizens:

Masaji Matsuyama, 58, Upper House, LDP

*Minister for regional revitalization:

Hiroshi Kajiyama, 61, Lower House, LDP

*Minister for Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games:

Shunichi Suzuki, 64, Lower House, LDP