September 3,2014,14.00 JST

Abe pushes out Ishiba to solidify his political stability

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reshuffled his cabinet ministers and LDP leadership positions on September 3. There will be no change in the direction of Abenomics. Finance Minister Aso remains in his place and he will continue to exert an expansionary bias on Japan's fiscal policy. Prime Minister Abe is creating a star out of Ms. Yuko Obuchi by promoting her to the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry. She is one of the hopefuls to become the first female Prime Minister of Japan, but no threat to Mr Abe in the immediate future and the appointment solidifies Mr Abe's womanomics credential.

The most important change in this reshuffle is the removal of Mr Ishiba from the position of Secretary General of LDP. Mr Ishiba almost beat Mr Abe in the LDP leadership contest back in 2012 and he continues to be an immediate threat to Mr Abe. The secretary general position is a powerful office conferring a controlling power over candidate selection process for every parliamentary electorate. After the close contest in 2012, Mr Abe had to give the position to Mr Ishiba for the party unity, but Mr Abe's success as the Prime Minister has enabled him to kick Mr Ishiba out of this position. The position has been given to Mr Tanigaki, an moderate has-been who have probably given up an aspiration to become Japan's Prime Minister. With Mr Ishiba reduced to occupy a minor ministerial position, Local Economy Revitalization Minister, in the new cabinet, Mr Abe has succeeded in solidifying his political stability. Mr Abe's term as the LDP leader will expire in September 2015, but unless Mr Abe stumbles on some political scandals, he may able to renew it uncontested. If he does, there is nothing to stop him from remaining as Japan's Prime Minister until he faces a national parliamentary election scheduled to be held before December 2016. 

For more details on the mechanics of Japanese politics and Who's who, please see here and here.