Photo/IllutrationMembers of the reshuffled Cabinet pose at the prime minister's office on Sept. 11. (The Asahi Shimbun)

“Antei to Chosen” (literally, stability and challenge), the slogan adopted by the new Shinzo Abe Cabinet that was formed on Sept. 11, apparently means “remaining unperturbed while taking on challenges.”

In any situation, that is an admirable attitude to maintain.

But as I followed recent news developments, a different catchphrase popped into my head: “Hikigiwa to Shoso.”

This translates as “timing of withdrawal” and “sense of restlessness.”

Only two years remain in Abe’s tenure as president of the Liberal Democratic Party. He is obviously acutely aware of this fact, and that must be why he appointed all his close allies to Cabinet posts.

He may be likened to a company president who, nearing retirement, tells his loyal subordinates: “You have served me well. I am making every one of you a director now.”

One such trusted individual is Koichi Hagiuda, who emerged as a key character while the Kake Educational Institution scandal was unfolding. Abe chose him, of all people, as his education minister.

Some LDP members reportedly feared that this appointment could create a firestorm in the Diet. However, Abe typically went on his merry way.

The prime minister told a news conference following the Cabinet reshuffle, “I will revise the Constitution without fail.”

If I were to read his mind, I would say Abe is likely growing restive over the fact that his administration has so far left no political legacy to speak of.

Little progress has been made on the North Korean abduction issue, and the same goes for the dispute over the Northern Territories. Unless something dramatic happens, the Abe administration will be remembered only for its impressive longevity.

Perhaps this is the context in which we should see the appointment of Shinjiro Koizumi to the Cabinet.

This immensely popular legislator will likely raise the Cabinet’s approval rating. And if Abe dissolves the Lower House while the rating is still high, the LDP will win the election, in turn improving Abe’s chances of revising the Constitution.

Or is such a scenario only in my imagination?

Another remark by Abe that caught my attention concerned his vow to “boldly envision” the nation’s social security system.

Does this mean he intends to actually get serious about fixing the pension system and other issues, which he ignored while campaigning for the Upper House election this past summer?

These are the unresolved issues Abe should be anxious to tackle head-on, not constitutional amendment.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Sept. 13

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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.