In a speech in Tokyo Thursday, the former prime minister asked the prime minister to make a decision about a cabinet reshuffle, saying that he will support the prime minister once he makes a decision – even if it is contrary to his opinions.
In the process, Mr. Koizumi has probably destroyed the idea of a cabinet reshuffle, by suggesting that if Mr. Fukuda botches the reshuffle, he will have no choice but to resign. He sowed further seeds of doubt by praising the current lineup and wonder whether a new lineup would receive more support from the public.
Whatever the doubts about the former prime minister’s intentions, one thing is clear: his words have the power to shape expectations. Any discussion of a reshuffle from henceforth will recall Mr. Koizumi’s analysis of the consequences of a reshuffle. Mr. Fukuda will have a hard time ignoring Mr. Koizumi’s unsolicited advice, given the extent of the latter’s exposure and lingering public support.
But Mr. Fukuda will not be saved by the advice of Mr. Koizumi, nor anyone else. He will not be saved by a reshuffle, which would in all likelihood by not much of an improvement over the current, reasonably competent cabinet. The prime minister is at the mercy of circumstance; his fate rests in the hands of opponents within the LDP and in the DPJ, who will decide whether he is able to make progress on the daunting wish list facing the government.