“…the reshuffle of the cabinet, the relation between the PM and the LDP, and the new cabinet members (and their background)…”
There are two kinds of major cabinet reshuffles executed by an LDP-led administration: 1) the Hail Mary (football pass), an attempt to revive fading public support, sometimes accompanied by the resignation of the prime minister himself and/or a subsequent call on a snap election; and 2) the Jimmy Carter (WH tennis court time management), a semi-regular reassignment, say, at a couple of years’ intervals, to contain restlessness among the non-cabinet/sub-cabinet parliamentarians. The Abe administration’s latest is obviously the latter. The evidence: high poll numbers nearly two years after the inauguration, and the retention of his chief cabinet secretary, minister of finance, and minister of foreign affairs.
The relationship between the PM and the LDP used to be simple. Barring impending disaster, faction leaders fought it out, and the winner became PM. But a variety of reasons, including losing to the opposition, changed this. Faction members now vote for whom they like with near-impunity. From Junichiro Koizumi on, only the disastrous Taro Aso has assumed the PM’s office while the head of a faction—one of the weakest ones at that—while faction leader Nobutaka Machimura suffered the indignity of losing to Abe, a member of his own faction. Although open rebellion outside of the regular triennial LDP presidential election is rare, there should be significant pressure on the PM to resign if his poll numbers threatens to dip into the twenties—the thirties if a national election looms on the horizon—and a successful challenge is likely to be mounted at the regular leadership election if the PM decides to stay the course.
There are people who claim that this is a right-wing cabinet that reflects Abe’s nationalist revisionist proclivities. Those people are idiots. Don’t listen to them. I do not pretend to know the cabinet and sub-cabinet appointees well enough to pass judgment on them individually. But they average out to a very solid and moderate mean. Abe is not the sharpest quill on the proverbial porcupine. But he comes across as an astute and ideology-free judge of character and administrative talent.
If you have the stomach for more, I am usually available at … on Thursdays, 2-5PM, and lunch before that if you like. But call ahead just to be sure.
Addendum: The Jimmy Carter analogy doesn’t work. Must keep working on my writing skills.