Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday replaced his Ministers of Defence and Health, Labour and Welfare in a major Cabinet reshuffle, with an eye on upcoming elections for the upper house of the Parliament in 2019, to be followed by lower house elections in 2021.
This was Abe’s first major reshuffle after he was re-elected as the leader of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party in September.
Abe retained six of the 19 ministers in his Cabinet and named 13 new ministers, out of which 12 were former ministers, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga was cited as saying by Efe news.
The most significant change in the Cabinet was new Defence Minister Takeshi Iwaya, who replaced Itsunori Onodera at a time when the government was set to push a controversial reform to change its pacifist Constitution.
Abe also named Takumi Nemoto as the new Minister of Health, Labour and Welfare, replacing Katsunobu Kato, while veteran politician Yoshitaka Sakurada was appointed as the Minister of the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Satsuki Katayama, currently the only woman minister in the Cabinet after Abe replaced two other female ministers, will be the new Regional Revitalization Minister.
Two of Abe’s closest aides, Finance Minister Taro Aso, and Suga himself retained their portfolios, along with Foreign Minister Taro Kono, Economy and Trade Minister Hiroshige Seko and Minister of State for Economic Revitalization and Human Resources Toshimitsu Motegi.
The reshuffle indicated Abe was set to continue with his economic policy or “Abenomics”, that was launched six years ago to revive the world’s third biggest economy.
The leader also reorganized the leadership of his party on Tuesday, naming former Health Minister Kato as chairman of the party’s general council, with the objective of pushing the proposed constitutional amendment.
This was Abe’s fifth Cabinet reshuffle in six years and across three terms.