By NORIHISA HOSHINO/ Staff Writer
October 4, 2021 at 18:24 JST
Fumio Kishida’s new administration features 13 rookie Cabinet ministers in an apparent attempt to provide a “fresh” image, but other picks show that old-fashioned political wheeling-and-dealing remains strong.
All Cabinet members of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s administration resigned on the morning of Oct. 4, paving the way for Kishida to announce a lineup that he hopes can cement his identity as a politician.
After his victory in the Liberal Democratic Party’s presidential election on Sept. 29, Kishida used senior party positions to reward those who had helped him win, including former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Finance Minister Taro Aso.
For example, Kishida on Oct. 1 named Akira Amari the new secretary-general of the party. Amari had worked with Abe and Aso to ensure Kishida would win the LDP presidential race.
For his Cabinet appointments, Kishida seems determined to maintain a balance among older, late middle-aged and younger politicians.
Often described as low-key and lacking dynamism, Kishida will face a test on whether he can develop his own “style” and “color” as the nation’s leader.
Kishida arrived at the party’s headquarters on the evening of Oct. 3. to discuss Cabinet appointments with Hirokazu Matsuno, whom he has named chief Cabinet secretary, and others.
Shunichi Suzuki, former chairman of the LDP’s General Council, was named Finance Minister on Oct. 4, replacing Aso.
Aso has held the post for about eight years and nine months, the longest in the postwar period, and some political watchers had expected Kishida to keep Aso in the position.
Although replacing Aso may on the surface seem like disrespect to the former prime minister, it should be noted that Suzuki is a senior member of the Aso faction. He is also Aso’s younger brother-in-law.
For the chief Cabinet secretary position, many pundits expected education minister Koichi Hagiuda, who is close to Abe and a member of the party’s largest Hosoda faction, to get the job.
Kishida picked Matsuno, who is also a member of the Hosoda faction.
Among the members who won their first Cabinet posts is Karen Makishima, who is currently serving her third term in the Lower House.
Makishima is one of two lawmakers in their 40s to enter the Cabinet.
Kishida has also picked Seiko Noda, a rival in the LDP presidential race, as state minister in charge of the declining birthrate issue.
The Kishida Cabinet has three female members, up from two in the Suga administration.
The picks for the Cabinet reflect Kishida’s consideration for the Hosoda, Aso and Takeshita factions.
Left out of the Cabinet lineup will be members of the Ishiba and Ishihara factions.
Shigeru Ishiba, a former LDP secretary-general who leads the Ishiba faction, backed Taro Kono in the LDP presidential election.
Hiroshi Moriyama, secretary-general of the Ishihara faction, also publicly supported Kono.
Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi, who endorsed Kono in the party’s election, does not have a position in the Kishida administration.
With party heavyweights still in control of matters, the Kishida administration could be strengthened. But that same power structure could reduce Kishida’s ability to steer the operation of his own Cabinet.
Aso, for example, is taking the LDP vice president position.
“Minister Aso is a person with an extremely forceful power, and he can be more powerful than the prime minister,” Amari said on a TV program on Oct. 3.
One of the most-talked-about posts in the Kishida Cabinet is the newly established state minister in charge of economic security.
Kishida has tapped Takayuki Kobayashi, 46, a former parliamentary vice minister of defense, for the position.
The outflow of technologies and data have become a major global challenge, particularly against the background of a strained U.S.-China relationship.
Kishida is expected to lay down the law to promote economic security, using the new minister appointed under the Cabinet Office.
“The issue of economic security is related to all ministries,” Amari said on the TV program.
“It is necessary to (build) a system in which the new minister can get involved in every issue, including those handled by the National Security Secretariat (NSS),” he said.
Amari has also focused on economic security, chairing the headquarters on “creating a new international order strategy.” The group was started inside the LDP by Kishida, when he was chairman of the party’s Policy Research Council.
Kobayashi served as secretary-general of that strategy group.
The Kishida administration will also face an urgent challenge in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Under the Suga administration, the health minister was joined by two other Cabinet members who took on additional roles during the health crisis, including overseeing the vaccine rollout and devising Japan’s response to new infections.
“There were too many boatmen” in the Suga administration’s handling of the pandemic, Amari said on the morning of Oct. 3,
He said the health minister will hopefully take the commanding role under the Kishida administration.
* * *
LINEUP OF KISHIDA CABINET
* Prime Minister:
Fumio Kishida, 64, Lower House, LDP
* Finance Minister:
Shunichi Suzuki, 68, Lower House, LDP
* Minister for Internal Affairs and Communications:
Yasushi Kaneko, 60, Lower House, LDP
* Justice Minister:
Yoshihisa Furukawa, 56, Lower House, LDP
* Foreign Minister:
Toshimitsu Motegi, 65, Lower House, LDP
* Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology:
Shinsuke Suematsu, 65, Upper House, LDP
* Minister of Health, Labor and Welfare:
Shigeyuki Goto, 65, Lower House, LDP
* Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries:
Genjiro Kaneko, 77, Upper House, LDP
* Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry:
Koichi Hagiuda, 58, Lower House, LDP
* Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism:
Tetsuo Saito, 69, Lower House, Komeito
* Environment Minister:
Tsuyoshi Yamaguchi, 67, Lower House, LDP
* Defense Minister:
Nobuo Kishi, 62, Lower House, LDP
* Chief Cabinet Secretary:
Hirokazu Matsuno, 59, Lower House, LDP
* Reconstruction Minister:
Kosaburo Nishime, 67, Lower House, LDP
* National Public Safety Commission Chairman:
Satoshi Ninoyu, 77, Upper House, LDP
* Minister in charge of measures to deal with the declining birthrate:
Seiko Noda, 61, Lower House, LDP
* Minister for economic revitalization:
Daishiro Yamagiwa, 53, Lower House, LDP
* Minister in charge of the coronavirus vaccine rollout
Noriko Horiuchi, 55, Lower House, LDP
* Minister in charge of economic security:
Takayuki Kobayashi, 46, Lower House, LDP
* Minister for digitization:
Karen Makishima, 44, Lower House, LDP
* Minister for Osaka World Expo:
Kenji Wakamiya, 60, Lower House, LDP
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