The Yomiuri Shimbun/Asia News Network
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration must take advantage of the ruling parties’ impressive victory in the recent House of Representatives election to make headway in addressing various policy issues. Such a move is essential for achieving tangible results in this respect. Abe’s new cabinet, the third to be formed under his leadership, has been inaugurated. He reappointed all 17 cabinet members, except Defence Minister Akinori Eto, to their ministerial positions. We believe the prime minister had good reason to do so. The new administration’s launch came after his second cabinet was reshuffled only in September. The new lineup apparently reflects Abe’s desire to place importance on expediting efforts to devise a new fiscal budget on the strength of his administration’s teamwork. Eto had been under fire from the opposition camp over questionable expenditures incurred by his fund management organisation. His exit from the cabinet demonstrated Abe’s appropriate judgment in preventing a political funds scandal from causing delays to subsequent Diet discussions.
Diet Management with Care Eto’s successor, former Defense Agency Director General Gen Nakatani, has broad knowledge in the field of national security. He was a member of the Liberal Democratic Party working team tasked with debating various issues related to the nation’s right of collective self-defense. Nakatani also sat on an LDP committee responsible for discussions related to the law on the protection of designated state secrets. Nakatani’s appointment as defense minister can be regarded as a sensible personnel decision, given that next year’s ordinary Diet session is expected to debate legislative issues related to the national security framework. All members of the LDP’s top brass also stayed on. LDP Secretary General Sadakazu Tanigaki and other party officials contributed to their party’s massive win in the last lower house election. They had properly acted in concert with the prime minister’s surprise decision to dissolve the chamber, aiming to stage-manage what he called the ��Abenomics dissolution.�� It is important to ensure that the Abe cabinet and the LDP keep in step with each other, given the current relationship between the two sides. As circumstances stand today, Abe and some other top officials at the Prime Minister’s Office are playing active roles in making key policy decisions under what can be described as a ��government-high, party-low�� structure. A number of voters who supported the LDP in the lower house race chose to do so halfheartedly. They apparently felt the LDP is ��the lesser evil�� among all political parties. According to a recent Yomiuri Shimbun survey, a significant 46 percent of those polled said the results of the December 14 election were ��not good.�� The LDP should humbly keep this in mind. The current political landscape can be described as having a single dominant party and many weak ones. However, the LDP needs to steer Diet proceedings in a careful manner so as to give due consideration to the opposition parties. Cumulatively, Thursday was the 1,095th day that Abe served as prime minister. This figure means his government is already seventh on the list of the longest-serving cabinets. If Abe wins reelection in the LDP’s leadership election next autumn and earns his party a victory in the 2016 House of Councilors race, it could give the Abe cabinet cause for optimism about becoming the third-longest-serving administration, surpassing those of Junichiro Koizumi and Yasuhiro Nakasone. A solid power base makes it possible for a government to tackle difficult problems facing its leader at home and abroad. Successfully translating government policies into action requires the top leader’s unshakable determination and well-planned strategy. It is also important to explain these policies to the public without fail.