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HOME  > Past issues  > 2007 August 22 - 28  > Cabinet lineup shows Abe is sticking to his same old policies
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2007 August 22 - 28 [POLITICS]

Cabinet lineup shows Abe is sticking to his same old policies

August 28, 2007
Following a historic defeat in the recent House of Councilors election, Prime Minister Abe Shinzo has claimed that he will radically reshuffle the government. However, the new cabinet lineup that has no freshness completely fails to respond to the electoral verdict because the very person who must resign remains in power.

Pro-constitutional revision forces in key posts

The Liberal Democratic Party’s House of Councilors election platform gave top priority to the task of revising the Constitution. Its devastating defeat, therefore, demonstrated strong public opposition to Abe’s “breaking away from the postwar regime” policy centering on constitutional revision.

However, Abe’s choice for the LDP secretary general was Aso Taro who is serving as the special advisor to the Japan Conference Dietmembers’ Council, a pro-Yasukuni Shrine group calling for a constitutional revision and justifying Japan’s past war of aggression. Abe also appointed many members of the pro-constitutional revision forces, including Yosano Kaoru who compiled the LDP draft constitution, to key posts in his new cabinet. This cabinet reshuffle shows no sign of Abe’s regret for his “breaking away from the postwar regime” policy.

Aso has gained Abe’s great trust through his activities promoting the “Abe color.” As LDP secretary general, he is expected to play a key role in promoting constitutional revision. Now that the constitutional revision procedures law has been enacted, Abe is attempting to open full-fledged Diet discussions on revision of the Constitution.

Among the 18 Cabinet members including Abe, 12 belong to “pro-Yasukuni” parliamentarian groups, including the Japan Conference Dietmembers’ Council.

Health, Labor, and Welfare Minister Masuzoe Yoichi helped Yosano produce the LDP draft constitution. Masuzoe still serves as acting chair of the LDP’s inner party council on the Constitution established after the enactment of the constitutional revision procedures law.

Five Cabinet members are officials of a parliamentarians’ league for the adoption of a new constitution founded in March and chaired by former Prime Minister Nakasone Yasuhiro.

Stronger inclination for an increase in consumption tax rate

In the House of Councilors election, voters gave severe verdict on the government for exacerbating poverty and widening social gaps through tax increases and adverse revision of social welfare services.

Despite this, Prime Minister Abe reappointed most of the ministers in charge of implementing his “structural reform” policies, revealing Abe’s unwillingness to change his policies. Ishihara Nobuteru, the newly appointed LDP Policy Research Council chair, said, “By no means do the election results show public rejection of deregulation and structural reform policies.”

The Basic Policies for Economic and Fiscal Reform 2007 that the first Abe Cabinet adopted in June focuses on further economic growth and cuts in expenditures. It pushes a policy of reducing by 1.6 trillion yen the expected increase in funding for welfare services in state and local budgets over the next five years.

Ota Hiroko who was reappointed as economic and fiscal policy minister said, “Reform should not be delayed.”

As a result of its setback in the House of Councilors election, some in the LDP put forward an argument favoring a delay in raising the consumption tax rate. In contrast, with Yosano Kaoru as chief cabinet secretary and Nukaga Fukushiro as finance minister, the number of cabinet ministers advocating an increase in the consumption tax rate has increased. Nukaga said he welcomes discussions that cover among other things the option of raising the consumption tax rate.

Promoting stronger Japan-U.S. alliance

The greatest problem that the Abe Cabinet will have to tackle in the upcoming extraordinary Diet session is an extension of the Anti-Terrorism Special Measures Law that will expire on November 1. Under the pretext of a “war on terrorism,” this law has provided the legal grounds for the government to have kept dispatching the Maritime Self-Defense Force’s supply ships to the Indian Ocean for nearly six years.

The new ministers of defense and foreign affairs have proven records of strengthening the Japan-U.S. alliance. This lineup shows that the new cabinet intends to meet the U.S. demand for the law’s extension at any cost.

Defense Minister Komura Masahiko, when he was the foreign minister under the Obuchi Cabinet, contributed to the 1999 enactment of the Law on Measures to Deal with Situations in Areas Surrounding Japan that allows Japan to join U.S. wars in the Asian Pacific region.

He expressed support for the U.S. war on Iraq even before its start, saying, “We cannot think of any other option for Japan than supporting the war” (March 2, 2003). On March 20 when the U.S. launched the war, he said in the House of Representatives plenary session, “I understand and support the decision that the U.S. made as the last resort option.” He also served as the chairman of a special committee when it railroaded through the Special Measures Law on Iraq.

Foreign Minister Machimura Nobutaka held the same post during the Koizumi Cabinet. In October 2005, he signed the Japan-U.S. agreement on realignment of the U.S. Forces in Japan to which relevant municipalities and residents were strongly opposed.

He refuted a call for “the earliest possible closure of military bases” made by a woman who had been sexually assaulted by a U.S. serviceman by stating, “Japan’s peace is maintained thanks to the U.S. forces and the Self-Defense Forces” (July, 2005). In addition, when a U.S. helicopter crashed on the campus of Okinawa International University, he said, “The extent of the damage was minimal probably because U.S. airmen had good training” (October 2004). These remarks were strongly denounced by Okinawans.

These ministers have all defended the U.S. to the end in defiance of public opinion. - Akahata, August 28, 2007
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