Fukuda will take the plunge

I apparently overestimated Fukuda Yasuo’s strength and independence in the face of pressure from within the LDP.

Yomiuri is reporting — corroborated by Asahi and NHK — that the prime minister has settled on a cabinet reshuffle in early August. Interestingly, Yomiuri’s source is Komeito chief Ota Akihiro, whose party is pushing hard for an election at the start of next year (and is more generally flexing its muscles).

I am no more convinced of the rightness of this decision than before. Much will depend on who stays, who goes, and who joins the ranks. Suffice to say, if this man stays, the exercise will have been futile.

But it is difficult to see what Mr. Fukuda will gain from this move. He has shown that if hounded enough by the media, he will cave. Like Abe Shinzo before him, he has shown that the prime minister’s supposed power to control personnel is illusory in the face of concerted pressure from within the LDP. This will do nothing to stem the rising tide of speculation about Mr. Fukuda’s departure and the campaign to replace him.

A reshuffle will not make the government any more popular (over anything longer than the short term), any less paralyzed or any more capable of tackling the daunting agenda facing Mr. Fukuda. It will, however, reinforce the impression of Japan’s being poorly managed and beset by political chaos.

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