Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Sunday he will “rejuvenate” his cabinet and key Liberal Democratic Party posts in early August, following a stinging defeat in the Tokyo assembly election and a series of missteps by his ministers.
But the prime minister, speaking to reporters during a visit to Sweden, indicated he would retain core cabinet members when he was asked whether he would keep trusted hands such as Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga and Finance Minister Taro Aso.
The government framework should “not be changed over and over again,” Abe said, while adding he would like to “actively promote” talent to the Cabinet and key party posts to steadily steer the country and carry out reforms.
Abe, meanwhile, said he has no intention of dissolving the lower house and calling a general election any time soon.
“I don’t have (a snap election) in mind at all. What is expected of the Abe cabinet is to produce results,” he said. The next House of Representatives election does not have to be held until December 2018, when lawmakers’ terms expire.
Abe, who is in his fifth year in office, has seen his cabinet support ratings fall recently due to the ruling parties’ steamrolling of a controversial law to penalize the planning of a range of crimes as well as allegations of favoritism by Abe in connection with a school construction project.
Adding to his concerns was the LDP’s historic defeat in the Tokyo metropolitan assembly election on July 2. One factor contributing to the party’s worse-than-expected showing was a campaign speech by Defense Minister Tomomi Inada in which she implied the Self-Defense Forces’ support for an LDP candidate, observers said.
Inada faced questions from members of both the ruling and opposition parties about her competence to be defense chief as the remark was viewed as undermining the political neutrality of the SDF.
As for Abe’s drive to revise Japan’s postwar Constitution for the first time, the prime minister maintained Sunday that he wants the LDP to submit amendment proposals to an extraordinary Diet session likely to be convened in the fall. Abe serves as the party’s president.
There is a good chance that the LDP can come up with the proposals by the end of the session, Abe said.
The ruling party has been moving toward amending the supreme law, especially after Abe made a controversial proposal in May for the revision of war-renouncing Article 9. But some members have stressed the need to deal with the matter carefully following the election defeat in the nation’s capital.
Claiming that some members of the main opposition Democratic Party also seem to recognize the need to discuss his proposal, Abe said, “The basic stance of politics is to make efforts to form a consensus with as many people as possible.”
Abe’s visit to Sweden was part of a roughly weeklong European tour, which already took him to Germany to attend a Group of 20 summit.
But Abe told reporters he will skip his visit to Estonia, the planned final leg of his trip, and return to Japan sooner than scheduled due to the deadly disaster triggered by torrential rain in southwestern Japan.
“I will swiftly visit the disaster-stricken area and see the situation for myself,” he said.
The prime minister was planning to return to Japan on Wednesday but is now expected to be back on Tuesday.