Home International Embattled Japanese premier reshuffles cabinet

Embattled Japanese premier reshuffles cabinet


Tokyo : Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan reorganised his cabinet Friday in the hopes of boosting his support among the public as he struggles with low popularity ratings.

The reshuffle was carried out just before the 150-day regular session of the Diet begins Jan 24 when the government, led by Kan’s Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), was expected to face challenges from opposition parties over the passage of the 2011 budget and other major legislation.

The highlight of the cabinet reorganisation was the appointment of Kaoru Yosano, a fiscal conservative and former finance minister under the long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which lost power to the DPJ in 2009. Yosano left a small party, the Sunrise Party of Japan, Thursday to serve the DPJ-led government.

Yosano was to take the post of economic and fiscal policy minister and would be in charge of the tax and social security systems. He is known as a staunch advocate of a consumption tax hike and a bureaucrats’ favorite.

While Japan’s media touted Yosano’s experience, critics pointed out his response to the collapse of the US investment bank Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc, which helped trigger a global financial meltdown in 2008.

Yosano, who held the same position then, called for a calm response, saying, “It will have a bee-sting effect on the Japanese economy.”

Soon after, Japan went through its worst recession since World War II.

Kan, calling the new cabinet “the most powerful,” offered important posts to fellow party members who are not close to Ichiro Ozawa, a former DPJ leader and one of the most powerful political figures in Japan. Ozawa, once known as the “shadow shogun,” lost to Kan in the DPJ presidential race in September.

Yukio Edano, acting secretary general of the DPJ and a vocal critic of Ozawa, became the chief cabinet secretary. Edano’s appointment met opposition within the DPJ because he was deemed responsible for the party’s crushing defeat in the July upper house election.

Edano replaced Yoshito Sengoku, who left the cabinet after coming under mounting attacks from the opposition.

Sengoku was censured in the upper house of the Diet after a reference to Japan’s Self-Defence Forces as a “violence device” and accusations he mishandled a collision between a Chinese fishing boat and Japan Coast Guard vessels off a disputed group of islets in the East China Sea.

The LDP threatened to boycott Diet deliberations unless Kan replaced Sengoku.

Kan’s government was burdened by low approval ratings, which were hovering a little more than 20 percent. The premier enjoyed high ratings of about 60 percent after he took office in June.

Kan kept key ministers such as Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara, Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda and Defence Minister Toshimi Kitazawa.

It was the second time that Kan had reshuffled his cabinet since he took office in June. The previous reorganization took place in September.