Readers will not be surprised to learn that I am underwhelmed by the Fukuda reshuffle. Aside from the deft moves of co-opting Aso Taro and Yosano Kaoru — hard to freelance and challenge the prime minister when having responsibilities to party and government — remarkably little will change as a result of this cabinet.
It is not a particularly flashy or telegenic bunch, at least no more than the previous cabinet. While Mr. Fukuda emphasized that this new cabinet will work on behalf of the people (I thought the previous cabinet was supposed to do that?), no major policy or even stylistic shifts will result from this cabinet. Mr. Machimura remains its spokesman, and Masuzoe Yoichi remains in place as the minister handling the most pressing issues facing the government. If Mr. Fukuda were prepared to have the tax debate that he previously said he wanted to have, Mr. Yosano’s presence would be significant for policy reasons, but with livelihood and consumer issues at the top of the agenda, it is unlikely that Mr.Yosano will make much ground in his campaign for a consumption tax increase.
One difference might be in the conduct of foreign policy, if this government gets enough time to address foreign policy. Mainichi notes that in China policy, this cabinet might actually be Fukuda-colored, with China-friendly Nikai Toshihiro and Hayashi Yoshimasa taking over at METI and MOD respectively. Mr. Fukuda needs all the help he can get in making the case for a constructive relationship with China, but in practical terms their presence may be negligible.
Perhaps the biggest loser from the reshuffle is Nakagawa Hidenao, whose “rising tide” group was locked out; then again, as MTC suggests, Mr. Nakagawa and the Koizumians may well be the biggest winners of the night, considering that this cabinet may well end up presiding over a catastrophic general election defeat that will wreck the careers of all involved.
I will write more later, once I’ve digested this lineup and read some more commentary.