Monday, August 27, 2007

Abe Administration Remake Looks Good on Paper But Is It Too Late?

Prime Minister Abe administration has announced his new Cabinet, and it looks good. There will be criticism that Mr. Abe has given in to pressure from the factions, but all in all, it does not look like a group of people that will cause the kind of headaches under Abe administration 1.0 through 1.4 (or 1.31, depending on how you count the MAFF heads).

Leaping out are the names of Nobutaka Machimura (Minister of Foreign Affairs; head of Machimura faction, 82 members), Fukushiro Nukaga (Minister of Finance; main prime minister candidate of Tsushima faction, 63 members), Fumiaki Ibuki (Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology; head of Ibuki faction, 25 members), and Masahiko Komura (Minister of Defense; head of Komura faction, 15 members). Taro Aso (head of the Aso faction, 16 members) is the powerful party no.2 Secretary-General and Toshihiro Nikai (head of Nikai faction, 15 members) holds one of the other two top party posts as Chairman of the General Council. The co-heads of the Niwa-Koga faction (46 members) are somewhat surprisingly left out in the cold. But how are you going to choose one of two people who have very serious issues with each other? The Niwa-Koga faction does have the very effective Yoshihida Suga in charge of elections. Sadakazu Tanigaki and Taku Yamazaki, doves openly opposed to Mr. Abe, are no surprise absentees.

The rest: Hiroya Masuda (Minister of Internal Affairs and Communication; ex-governor), Kunio Hatoyama (Minister of Justice; Tsushima action), Yoichi Masuzoe (Minister of Health, Labor and Welfare; unaligned, Upper House), Takehiko Endo (Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery; Yamazaki faction, 36 members), Akira Amari (Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry; Yamzaki faction, but very sympathetic to Mr. Abe), Tesuzo Fuyushiba (Minister of Land, Infrastructure and Transport,; New Komeito), Ichiro Kamoshita (Minister of Environment; independent?), Kaoru Yosano (Chief Cabinet Secretary; independent), Shinya Izumi (Minister of State - Chairman of the National Public Safety Commission, Minister of State for Disaster Management; independent, Upper House) Fumio Kishida (Minister of State for Okinawa and Northern Territories Affairs; Niwa-Koga faction), Yoshimi Watanabe (Minister for Financial Services, Minister of State for Regulatory Reform; unaligned), Hiroko Ohta (Minister of State for Economic and Fiscal Policy; not Diet Member), and Yoko Kamikawa (Minister for Declining Number of Children [they mean "Increasing"; Niwa-Koga faction). The announcements do not say where the Minister for Ocean Policy, Science and Technology Policy, Innovation, Gender Equality, Social Affairs and Food Safety portfolios go.

The Tanigaki faction (15 members) has been completely shut out. Also missing from the Cabinet list are the Aso, and Nikai factions, but remember, they are small factions, and their heads hold two of the three key party posts.

As for the unaligned, Yoichi Masuzoe is an intelligent and creative policy maker and forceful public speaker who has also been highly critical of Mr. Abe and his Cabinet. Thus, he is a substance-inclusiveness twofer. Another substance-inclusiveness twofer is the likeable Kaoru Yosano in the most important Cabinet post, who is also a masterful conciliator as well. (He was highly touted for Chief Cabinet Secretary for Abe administration 1.0.) Hiroya Masuda is widely considered as an inspired choice.

The choices for Foreign Affairs, Finance, and Defense look good too. Under the circumstances, Mr. Abe has done a good job. But it would have looked better the first time around. There will be many critics of the balancing act, who will portray it as a sign of weakness. Also, he will catch flak for reducing the number of women from three to two, and in very junior portfolios at that.

At the end of the day, it's the prime minister's job to turn it around.

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