In Japan, the prime minister carries out a vast reshuffle and feminizes his government

The Japanese government is becoming more feminine

In Japan, the prime minister carries out a vast reshuffle and feminizes his government

The Japanese government is becoming more feminine. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida carried out a vast cabinet reshuffle on Wednesday, September 13, with changes, notably to foreign affairs and defense, and a significant increase in the number of women in his government.

In power since October 2021, Mr. Kishida, 66, has seen his popularity decline in recent months, also weakening his position as president of the Liberal Democratic Party (PLD) as internal elections are scheduled for 2024.

He replaced his foreign minister, Yoshimasa Hayashi, with Yoko Kamikawa, a 70-year-old woman who served as justice minister several times between 2014 and 2021. This is the first time in nineteen years that a woman will occupy the foreign affairs portfolio in Japan.

Five women in government

A total of five women will be part of the new government, compared to two previously, out of 19 ministers. Although this feminization is therefore still limited, this equals the record number of women ministers in Japan already reached in 2001 and 2014. Another symbolic sign of renewal, 11 of the 13 new members of the government will occupy a ministerial portfolio for the first time.

Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada was replaced by Minoru Kihara, 54, who previously served as Parliamentary Secretary for Defense (2013-2014) and was the Special Advisor on Security Affairs to the Prime Minister of 2019 to 2021.

These changes come as Japan, an ally of the United States, faces rising tensions with China and North Korea, and Tokyo plans to significantly strengthen its defense budget for the period 2023-2027. Pyongyang, which has increased its weapons tests in recent months, also launched at least one ballistic missile towards the Sea of ​​Japan on Wednesday morning, according to the South Korean army.

“Strengthening a faltering popularity rating”

The Minister of Finance, Shunichi Suzuki, was retained in his post, as were the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), Yasutoshi Nishimura, and the popular Minister of Digital Transformation, Taro Kono , Mr. Kishida's former rival in the LDP presidential election in 2021. General Secretary and government spokesperson Hirokazu Matsuno also remains in office.

“The cabinet reshuffle is, as usual, an attempt to strengthen faltering popularity ratings,” recalled Brad Glosserman, a political scientist from the Pacific Forum research institute, interviewed Wednesday by Agence France-Presse (AFP).

This aims to make Mr. Kishida's re-election as leader of the PLD next year “more likely” – and therefore allow him to remain prime minister – “by strengthening public support and ensuring that factions within the LDP continue to support him,” Glosserman added.

A tarnished image of the government

Mr. Kishida's government's approval rating has been close to 30 percent for months. A majority of Japanese surveyed consider the measures taken so far to mitigate the impact of inflation on purchasing power to be insufficient.

Various scandals have also tarnished the government's image in recent months, such as the numerous flaws in "My Number", a national digital system of individual identification for administrative procedures.

Like many other observers of Japanese politics, Mr. Glosserman said he was "a little surprised" by the replacement of the foreign and defense ministers, while there was no "dissatisfaction" with them. -with regard to their respective performances according to him.

These two changes at the head of key ministries are probably intended to underline that a “political dynamic is underway, that heads can be replaced”. Mr. Kishida thus responded to the call from other LDP faction leaders for a major reshuffle, Mr. Glosserman further assumes.