Many Allies of Former PM Abe Become Members of Japan’s New Government

Fumio Kishida took office Monday as Japan’s prime minister, with his government including many allies of former PM Shinzo Abe, whose conservative base is certain to retain influence over the new cabinet.

Kishida, 64, a former foreign minister who has an image as a calm-minded consensus builder, beat three contenders last week to lead the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and become prime minister, as it holds a majority in parliament.

He will also lead the party through elections that public broadcaster NHK says will be held on October 31, when criticism of former PM Yoshihide Suga’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic crushed the level of support for the party.

“I want to face the future with strong feelings and determination,” Kishida told reporters Monday.

Of the 20 posts in his cabinet, 13 will be filled by people with no previous cabinet experience, in line with Kishida’s promise to give new recruits a chance, but a number of key posts will go to Abe’s allies or finance minister Taro Aso who will terminate his position.

“There are a lot of fresh faces, but I don’t get the impression they will increase Kishida’s popularity much,” said political analyst Atsuo Ito.

Akira Amari at a press conference in Tokyo, January 28, 2016.

Akira Amari at a press conference in Tokyo, January 28, 2016.

One of those close to Abe is the new LDP Secretary General, Akira Amari. Ready to replace Aso is his brother-in-law, Shunichi Suzuki, who is little known, even in Japan, and looks set to continue the government’s policy of reducing budget growth with fiscal reforms.

Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi and Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi, Abe’s brother, will defend their posts, media said.

The key position of chief cabinet secretary will be taken by Hirokazu Matsuno, education minister under Abe, while the current minister, and Abe’s ally, Koichi Hagiuda, will become minister of commerce and industry, a key figure in energy policy.

Takayuki Kobayashi, who was appointed to the new post in economic security, is an ally of Amari, who is the architect of Japan’s economic security policy aimed at China protecting sensitive technology.

There were three women in the ranks of Kishida’s rule, one more than in Suga’s cabinet, but none of them occupied key positions. [uh/ab]

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