Japan PM Shinzo Abe retains 3-month-old Cabinet after landslide election win

Shinzo Abe has been re-elected as Japan's Prime Minister, after his ruling party won majority of the seats in last month's parliamentary election.
Shinzo Abe has been re-elected as Japan's Prime Minister, after his ruling party won majority of the seats in last month's parliamentary election.PHOTO: AFP

TOKYO - Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has kept intact a Cabinet team he put in place just three months ago,  promising at the time a "policy first" approach among his "team of workers".

The announcement was after a special Parliament session on Wednesday (Nov 1), where both chambers voted to return Mr Abe, 63, as Prime Minister for a third term since December 2012.  

He is two years away from becoming Japan's longest-serving PM, and his current term will run until October 2021.

Mr Abe's Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and coalition partner Komeito won convincingly in a snap election on Oct 22, securing more than two-thirds of the 465-seat Lower House.

The landslide victory came despite Mr Abe being implicated, just this year, in two successive cronyism scandals involving education institutions. What worsened matters was a major cover-up scandal in the defence ministry that led to the resignation of his protege Tomomi Inada, whom experts have viewed as being unsuitable for the job.

To stop murmurings that he has a penchant of slotting in only key allies in top positions, Mr Abe reached across various LDP factions in appointing his Cabinet in early August, leading to a turnaround in his ratings that had, at one point, fallen below 30 per cent.

To right the ship at the beleaguered defence ministry, Mr Abe brought back old hand Itsunori Onodera, 57, who had held the portfolio from 2012 to 2014.

He also appointed the reform-minded Taro Kono, 54, as Foreign Minister. Mr Kono, who has worked as an aide to US politicians, has fronted some media conferences and held some bilateral meetings entirely in English since he took over from Mr Fumio Kishida.

 

Another surprise pick had been Ms Seiko Noda, 57, as Minister for Internal Affairs and Communications. Ms Noda has run against Mr Abe for the LDP chief position, and had been critical of some of Mr Abe's policies.

Mr Abe, in remarks made earlier on Wednesday, vowed to use his third election mandate since late 2012 to "resolutely protect the lives of Japanese citizens and work towards a brighter future for the next generation".

Other key Cabinet members include deputy prime minister and finance minister Taro Aso, 77, chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga, 68, and minister of economy, trade and industry Hiroshige Seko, 54.

Mr Abe will hold a press conference on Wednesday evening, where he is expected to announce a draft supplementary budget for the current fiscal year.

The budget is expected to include improved childcare services to curb a shortfall in childcare facilities, as well a more support for small- and medium-sized enterprises.

The LDP and its coalition partner Komeito together have 313 elected lawmakers in the 465-seat chamber.

The largest opposition party is the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDP), which has 55 elected lawmakers.

The Party of Hope (Kibo no To), meanwhile, now has 51 seats, after Mr Seiji Maehara, former chief of the splintered Democratic Party (DP) joined the party on Monday.

By law, a Diet session must be called within 30 days of a general election to formally elect a Prime Minister, usually the leader of the majority party.