The shape of the cabinet to come?

Over at Shisaku, MTC relays a Yomiuri story reporting that Foreign Minister Aso will be Nakagawa Hidenao’s replacement as LDP secretary-general.

MTC correctly notes that the LDP secretariat is hardly the ideal position from which Aso can claim the premiership, indeed, it will likely burden him with the trying task of hammering together a unified LDP capable of competing in the next general election. This would no doubt make him more enemies within the party than he already has and seemingly forestall his plans to be the party’s leader in the next general election. (Dissent within the party continues, with Nakatani Gen, another former JDA chief, calling for Abe’s resignation.)

Meanwhile, the report about Aso squares with an article in the 9 August issue of Shukan Bunshun, which outlines the possible roster for a new Abe cabinet:

If one generalizes from the predictions of political journalists and LDP notables, everyone agrees that Aso will be secretary-general and Suga [Yoshihide, internal affairs minister] will be chief cabinet secretary. If one looks to future party presidential elections, Nikai Toshihiro as secretary-general is also possible.

“In order that the Abe-Shiozaki duo is not felt to be changing, why not have Chief Cabinet Secretary Shiozaki sidestep into the post of minister of financial affairs or another economic porfolio? Mr. Aisawa Ichiro from the Tanigaki faction and Kamoshita Ichiro from the Tsushima faction will probably be nominated. The time is coming for Kishida Fumio of the Koga faction to enter the cabinet. There is also the view that in order for Secretary-General Nakagawa to return to his faction, faction chief Machimura will hand over the leadership and become the head of the Policy Affairs Research Council. With recommendations from factions tending to harden and bear fruit, for a surprise concurrent policy change, former Chief Cabinet Secretary Fukuda will also be appointed foreign minister.” [Former LDP notable]

If Fukuda were in fact to be named foreign minister at the same time that Aso was relegated to perform the dirty work of LDP secretary-general, it could very well transform the race to succeed Abe, or, alternatively, could lead to speculation as to who will actually be in control of the Abe Cabinet.

As for the other mooted names, Aisawa Ichiro is an exact contemporary of the prime minister, a third-generation Lower House member from Okayama, and a foreign affairs expert who belongs to Diet members’ leagues in support of cordial relations between Japan and China and Japan and South Korea. Kamoshita, a representative from Tokyo, was once a member of Ozawa’s New Frontier Party before joining the LDP in 1997. Kishida, meanwhile, is forty-eight, has been reelected five times, and is currently the deputy head of the LDP’s Diet Strategy Committee. With Suga, perhaps the one prominent member of Abe’s cabinet not to face corruption charges or to be guilty of indiscreet speech, would likely provide a steady hand on the tiller. Together with the continuing presence of the popular Koike Yuriko as defense minister, this would be a cabinet designed not to achieve brilliant policy initiatives, but to stabilize the LDP’s position and perhaps pave the way for a bloodless coup.

That said, an article in the latest issue of Shukan Bunshun suggests that struggle is underway for the chief cabinet secretary’s post, with Suga challenged by supporters of Koike and Upper House member Matsuzoe Yoichi, with the latter, an open opponent of Abe’s staying in office, selected in order to co-opt him and to signal a “new Abe.” A similar logic could lead to the appointment of Ishiba to the defense ministry and even Fukuda’s appointment as foreign minister.

Undoubtedly Mr. Abe recognizes that deferring to the factions diminishes his authority as head of government and party, hence his insistence upon ignoring factional nominations for ministerial posts. The factions have until 27 August to impress upon Mr. Abe the wisdom of their nominations, as Mr. Abe has determined that that will be the date he shuffles his cabinet. The composition of the new cabinet will say much about the new balance of power within the party and the prime minister’s chances for survival beyond this year.

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