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TOKYO, Aug. 13 (Xinhua) — Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida carried out a major reshuffle of his cabinet and the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) executive ranks earlier this week, intensifying public scrutiny of the party’s ties to the Democratic Party. The Unification Church saw approval ratings plummet.

Analysts pointed out that Kishida welcomed the conservative right-wing force previously led by former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Wednesday’s reshuffle, following a tough foreign policy announcement, having shown a clear focus on factional politics and national security over people’s livelihoods.

Soon after the new cabinet was inaugurated, it was revealed that some members in the new ranks had various ties to the controversial religious group, the Unification Church. Meanwhile, tough challenges, such as the new wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and soaring consumer prices, still hurt, leaving Kishida’s reshuffled cabinet facing a lot of difficulties.

A cabinet reshuffle is expected to take place in early September, as usual, but analysts said Kishida appeared to be moving ahead to try to stop the decline in his support as soon as possible.

Key cabinet members such as Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi, Finance Minister Shunichi Suzuki and Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno remained in their posts, but in general, the cabinet underwent a major reshuffle.

Except for Kishida, only five of the 19 cabinet members are still in office, and the remaining 14 are five brought back and nine rookies.

The new ranks, in which seven factions in the LDP, parliamentary groups and members not affiliated with any party faction are involved, were seen by local media as a reflection that Kishida prioritized the balance of power of the factions within the party, trying to mobilize various forces within the LDP to overcome current difficulties.

The Kishida faction led by Kishida is only the fourth largest faction in the LDP. Previously, it had brought together Motegi’s second faction and Aso’s third faction in the party to check and balance the Abe faction, the largest faction in the ruling party.

Abe’s faction became leaderless after Abe’s assassination on July 8, and how Kishida treated Abe’s faction in this personnel change has been the focus of public opinion.

As it turned out, four members of the Abe faction entered the new cabinet, most of whom were tied to the Aso faction. Although the new Minister of Economic Security Sanae Takaichi has no faction, he has strong support from Abe.

Nobuo Kishi, Abe’s younger brother and outgoing defense minister, was removed from the cabinet, but Kishida appointed him special adviser to the prime minister in charge of national security. Meanwhile, Koichi Hagiuda, another of Abe’s confidants, was moved from the post of industry minister to the key post of LDP policy chief.

Kishida’s choice of personnel reflects his desire to retain the support of Abe’s faction, a necessity to ensure the longevity of his tenure as party leader and therefore prime minister, Kyodo News said.

Analysts note that this will give Abe’s faction a significant voice in the cabinet and the LDP, and Kishida’s government will continue to be constrained by Abe’s influence.

SECURITY OF PEOPLE’S LIVELIHOODS

Kishida not only put Abe’s right-wing conservative forces in a pivotal position, but his policy announcements at the press conference after cabinet formation were also quite hawkish.

Kishida defined the new cabinet as a cabinet that firmly implements policies and is able to handle emergency situations, which refers to crises related to war and armed conflict in the political context of the Japanese word.

At the press conference, Kishida chose to introduce the new Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada first, noting that fundamentally strengthening defense capabilities is the new cabinet’s most important task of the year.

He then introduced Takaichi, noting that the new cabinet would push for the implementation of a bill on promoting economic security, which essentially follows the United States in realizing the geopolitics of economic, trade and industrial policies.

Kishida previously said that revisions of three major security documents, including the National Security Strategy, National Defense Program Guidelines and the Medium-Term Defense Program, would be completed by the end of the year.

The LDP has also asked the government to increase Japan’s defense spending from around 1 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) to 2 percent within five years. At the press conference, Kishida emphasized that defense capacity building will be strengthened in terms of content, budget and financial resources, among other aspects.

Analysts note that while Kishida continues to promote his so-called vision of a “new capitalism”, his new cabinet, based on its relevant cabinet members and policy announcements, takes a clear stance in prioritizing security over people’s livelihoods, and the concept of security is very important. many are infused with the US-style Cold War mentality.

A sharp decline in support for Kishida’s cabinet has been reported in several Japanese opinion polls since early August, amid opposition to the government’s decision to hold a state funeral for Abe, questions about the ruling party’s ties to the Unification Church, and dissatisfaction with the government’s response. against rising prices and the COVID-19 pandemic.

After Abe’s assassination, Kishida’s government announced his so-called achievements and decided to hold a state funeral for him at the end of September. However, the suspect in Abe’s murder, Tetsuya Yamagami, confessed that his mother had been brainwashed by the Unification Church, which caused the family to collapse, and that he killed Abe, who was reportedly close to the church, in retaliation for Abe’s death. group.

The Unification Church’s misdeeds, such as exploiting its followers by selling them “spiritual goods,” have become the focus of public opinion. The Japanese media also dug into that Abe and his family had long been friends with the Unification Church, and that the LDP, especially many politicians, had various ties to the Unification Church.

The revelations have caused a sharp shift in public opinion over Abe’s assassination, lowering the approval rating of Kishida’s cabinet. According to a recent poll, among Japanese, opponents of Abe’s state funeral outnumber those who support it.

One of the goals of Kishida’s flash cabinet reshuffle was to cut losses in time and clear the cabinet of members close to the Unification Church.

However, soon after the new cabinet was inaugurated, several cabinet members were reported to have ties to the Unification Church, meaning that the controversy over the Unification Church and Abe’s state funeral is expected to continue to erode popular support for Kishida’s cabinet.

In addition, a new wave of COVID-19 is still raging in Japan. According to the health ministry, the daily number of confirmed cases in Japan surpassed 250,000 for the first time on Wednesday, the highest since the outbreak. All local governments noted a serious shortage of hospital beds, with many COVID-19 patients getting worse and even dying because they could not be hospitalized in time.

Analysts believe that although Kishida’s new cabinet intends to prioritize security, it is likely to face new dilemmas in the face of prices, energy, COVID-19 and people’s livelihoods.

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