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Fukuda ditches mates, gets new ones

August 2, 2008

In any other country (that I’ve lived in, at least) it’d be akin to rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic, but this is Japan, and the Jimintou (the governing Liberal Democratic Party) are of course the party that the public won’t punish.

Today Prime Minister Fukuda is 10 months into his stewardship, with approval ratings below sea-level (of his G8 chums, only Gordon Brown is less popular, and he’s got one foot in the political grave).  I doubt even he believes that a cabinet reshuffle will raise those ratings any, but that’s what we got.

There are 17 spots in the cabinet, and 4 of yesterday’s names remained by tea-time.  Kyodo reported –

Along with [reappointed Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka] Machimura, Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura, Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Yoichi Masuzoe and Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Hiroya Masuda, who does not hold a Diet seat, were the only ones who remain in Fukuda’s Cabinet.

Plenty to smile lopsidedly aboutThe big news was of course that Taro Aso returns to the fold as the LDP’s secretary general, the post he briefly held in the Abe administration before that came to an abrupt and unexpected close.  Most sources are saying that this is seen as attempting to ‘connect with young voters’.  Mr Aso reads comics, you know.  Which would certainly be a factor in how I decide to vote, oh yes.

Bunmei Ibuki, former LDP secretary general, was appointed as finance minister, former Chief Cabinet Secretary Kaoru Yosano as economic and fiscal policy minister and Toshihiro Nikai, former LDP General Council chairman, as economy, trade and industry minister.

One unfortunate casualty of the day was ‘Killer’ Kunio Hatoyama, self-confessed al-Qaeda associate, seen here looking terribly dignified and taking his job seriously.  After sterling work as the Justice Minister, and creating a new record of signing 13 death warrants in just 10 months in office, he’s replaced by Okiharu Yasuoka.

The Prime Minister later described the new Cabinet as ‘the Cabinet for realizing peace of mind’ (perhaps a little optimistic), going on to say “its mission is to carry out political measures” (perhaps a little obvious).

Pressed on the likelihood of an imminent election, Fukuda said ”The social and economic situations now require us to carry out politics, rather than discussing the lower house dissolution.” So that’ll be a hopeful ‘No’ then.

When asked about the much-discussed hike in consumption tax he told reporters “while fiscal rehabilitation will not be brought about without the sales tax, it is necessary to fully explain to the public how to deal with the issue.” Not consult or discuss, you’ll notice. Explain. Meanwhile, the new Justice Minister says the death penalty must be kept because the public support it. Yay for public opinion – good for back up when you need it, completely irrelevant the rest of the time.

For a full list of the new Cabinet, click here for the Kyodo rundown.

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