Abe seeks to steady the ship

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - COMMENT -

Ja­panese Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe on Thurs­day ap­pointed a num­ber of vet­eran politi­cians that are close to him to high of­fices in the rul­ing Lib­eral Demo­cratic Party, in a move to re­verse his all-time-low ap­proval rat­ings and dis­play a united party. His Cab­i­net reshuf­fle shows that Abe is try­ing to heal the fractures within the party.

The res­ig­na­tion of for­mer de­fense min­is­ter To­momi Inada, an Abe pro­tégé, a week ago, was a wake-up call for the Ja­panese prime min­is­ter that his fa­voritism was re­flect­ing badly on him. Re­plac­ing Inada, who had no ex­per­tise in man­ag­ing de­fense af­fairs, with one of her pre­de­ces­sors It­sunori On­odera, might re­store some unity and sense in the Abe ad­min­is­tra­tion.

And Abe needs sol­i­dar­ity and sta­bil­ity in the top ech­e­lons of his ad­min­is­tra­tion. For­mer for­eign min­is­ter Fu­mio Kishida, a front-run­ner in the race for the LDP pres­i­dency when Abe’s term ends next year, will chair the party’s Pol­icy Re­search Coun­cil, a “be­spoke” se­nior party post that could sig­nif­i­cantly ben­e­fit him in the fu­ture con­test.

Seiko Noda, a for­mer chair­woman of the LDP Gen­eral Coun­cil and a prom­i­nent con­tender for the party’s lead­er­ship in 2015, when she lost to Abe, has been named min­is­ter for in­ter­nal af­fairs and com­mu­ni­ca­tions. The pres­ence of se­nior fig­ures such as Noda and Kishida is ex­pected to give a lift to the scan­dal-mired LDP.

That Abe in­vited se­nior LDP law­mak­ers, even po­ten­tial ri­vals, to be mem­bers of his new Cab­i­net also points to the in­ef­fec­tive­ness of the op­po­si­tion par­ties. Renho Mu­rata, his chief op­po­nent, re­signed as leader of the Demo­cratic Party of Ja­pan last week be­cause of her fail­ure to take po­lit­i­cal ad­van­tage of Abe’s grow­ing un­pop­u­lar­ity.

With vir­tu­ally no op­po­si­tion from the other par­ties, Abe faces lit­tle chal­lenge. De­spite his wan­ing public trust, some polls sug­gest it is below 30 per­cent, Abe will sur­vive if the reshuf­fle so­lid­i­fies his ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Yu Qiang, a re­searcher of Ja­pan stud­ies at Uni­ver­sity of In­ter­na­tional Re­la­tions in Bei­jing

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