October 23, 2017 – Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said today he will waste no time in reappointing his Cabinet and key members of his Liberal Democratic Party following the ruling coalition’s big win in the House of Representatives election the previous day.
Citing U.S. President Donald Trump’s visit to Japan from Nov. 5 and subsequent regional summits in Southeast Asia, Abe told a press conference he feels he “should sort out the new Cabinet quickly.”
The new Cabinet cannot be selected until after a special parliamentary session to vote Abe back in as prime minister, which the coalition of the LDP and the smaller Komeito party decided earlier Monday to convene on Nov. 1.
Abe is expected to retain most of the current Cabinet lineup, including Finance Minister Taro Aso and Foreign Minister Taro Kono, and keep the LDP leadership as is, with Toshihiro Nikai in the key post of secretary general.
The ruling bloc together maintained a two-thirds majority in the 465-seat lower house, emboldening the LDP in its plan to propose a first-ever amendment to the Japanese Constitution.
While Abe is keen to amend the Constitution’s war-renouncing Article 9 to include an explicit mention of the status of Japan’s Self-Defense Forces, Komeito and some opposition parties are in favor of amendment generally but have different priorities.
Speaking after meetings with senior LDP members and Komeito leader Natsuo Yamaguchi, Abe stressed the election result on its own is not a mandate for the LDP’s views on constitutional reform.
“We must make continuous efforts to build a broad consensus, regardless of party affiliation,” he said.
Abe also said his party will draw up by the end of the year a policy package aimed at improving efforts to address Japan’s low birthrate and aging population by making the social welfare system work better for younger generations.
The premier said he will “carefully explain if asked in the Diet” about lingering cronyism allegations that hurt his popularity earlier this year. But the ruling coalition is unlikely to allow Diet debate to resume until next year.
Following the effective collapse of the former main opposition Democratic Party late last month, Sunday’s opposition vote was split between the newly formed Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan and the conservative Party of Hope launched by Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike, with the CDPJ coming out on top.
CDPJ leader Yukio Edano and other senior members met today to discuss how they will go about running their party, which formed out of the Democratic Party’s liberal wing.
They agreed to build a united front in the lower house by working together with former colleagues from the Democratic Party who successfully ran as independents.
Edano also met Rikio Kozu, the head of the Democratic Party’s long-standing primary backer, the Japanese Trade Union Confederation or Rengo, to thank him for the body’s support during the campaign. They agreed to work more closely together eyeing the 2019 House of Councillors election.
Rengo did not endorse a particular party on a national level, but its regional branches were allowed to choose who they backed.
While the CDPJ did better in the election than forecast at the start of the campaign, the Party of Hope, whose leader Koike did not run for a seat in the house, did worse than initially expected, even in its assumed stronghold of Tokyo.
With Koike wanting to continue to lead the party from outside the Diet, her party is now tasked with filling the rest of its leadership positions and figuring out the role it wants for itself in parliament.
The party still needs to pick who it will endorse as preferred prime minister in the house-wide vote on Nov. 1. It plans to hold a meeting of all its lawmakers on Wednesday, after Koike returns from a business trip to Paris that kept her out of Japan on polling day.
Democratic Party leader Seiji Maehara, who won his seat as an independent on Sunday, also met Rengo’s Kozu and apologized for the Party of Hope’s poor performance.
Maehara had tried to merge the Democratic Party with the Party of Hope, but only the conservative wing was let in, with the liberals forming the CDPJ.
The Democratic Party still technically exists, with 49 lawmakers in the upper houses and offices all over Japan.
Maehara told Kozu he intends to resign from the party after making some decisions about what will happen to the party’s upper house lawmakers and its regional branches.