Makaira Report : Is the Cabinet reshuffle an annual event? 2023.10.02

On 13 September, the Cabinet was reshuffled, with 13 of the 19 ministers replaced. On the same day, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) also made executive appointments, including four positions of party officials (Secretary-General; Chairperson, General Council; Chairperson of Policy Research Commissions; and Chairperson, Election Strategy Committee).

Various media outlets commented that the increase in public support as a result of the reshuffle was lower than in the past, and that the chance of dissolving the Lower House for a snap election is now growing farther away. This article will not discuss the impact of the Cabinet reshuffle on the future government, but will instead describe the basics of what those involved in public affairs should know about the Cabinet reshuffle.

>Why did a Cabinet reshuffle occur at this time?

The media has discussed the possibility that the Kishida administration, whose support has been declining, has carried out the cabinet reshuffle in order to raise support for the Cabinet. Although this may be part of the reason, Cabinet reshuffles and LDP appointments take place around September every year, and political insiders have been anticipating them months in advance.
The reason for this timing is that it falls between the regular Diet session (from January to June) and the extraordinary Diet session (typically held in October), which is a good time for making personnel appointments.

Reference 1: Annual Cabinet reshuffle
2018: October 2 (1st reshuffle of 4th Abe Cabinet)
2019: September 11 (2nd reshuffle of 4th Abe Cabinet)
[2020: September 16 (Suga Cabinet was formed after the LDP presidential election held midway during the Abe Cabinet)]
[2021: October 4 (1st Kishida Cabinet was formed following the LDP presidential election)]
2022: August 10 (1st reshuffle of the 2nd Kishida Cabinet)
2023: September 13 (2nd reshuffle of the 2nd Kishida Cabinet)

>Personnel changes are not just for the Cabinet, but for the LDP as a whole

When a Cabinet reshuffle takes place, the media tends to focus on the ministerial appointments, introduces these ministers’ qualities or personality, and even criticizes some people for scandals which come to light. However, the appointments made at the time of the Cabinet reshuffle are not only for ministers, but also for all positions of state ministers and parliamentary vice-ministers, as well as LDP personnel in general.

The LDP replaces not only the party’s four executive officers, but also the director, acting-director, and deputy-director, etc. of the policy division which corresponds to each ministry and agency. It is said that whether or not a person can become minister depends on his or her ability and luck, but it is said that for up to the position of state minister, as long as one has been elected, they will be rotated in turn. This is allegedly because the LDP makes Diet members gain experience in various positions in the government and in the party, such as state minister and parliamentary vice minister on the government side, and in the LDP’s various policy subcommittees, management headquarters, and the Diet Affairs Committee, in order to ascertain the characteristics of each person.
For these personnel policy-related reasons, the LDP reshuffles positions in September every year, and the Cabinet reshuffle can be said to be a part of the LDP’s personnel policy.

>Keep an eye not only on the appointments of ministers, but also on state ministers, parliamentary vice ministers, and directors.

Ministers are of course important to those involved in public affairs, but they are extremely busy and not easily accessible. In some cases, state ministers, parliamentary vice ministers, and LDP policy division directors are more important in public affairs because they are relatively easy to get time to meet with, and they are close to the administration.

Appointments of state ministers, parliamentary vice ministers are usually made after ministerial appointments have been made, so there is a delay of a day or two. In this case, the ministerial appointments were made on September 13, and the state minister and parliamentary vice minister appointments on September 15. Furthermore, the appointments of the directors, acting directors and deputy directors of the policy divisions are announced about a week after the Cabinet appointments.

It is noteworthy that at this time, those most frequently appointed as state ministers were Diet members who had been elected four times (in the case of the House of Representatives), while parliamentary vice-minister appointments were most frequently Diet members who had been elected once.

However, since positions are rotated on the basis of how many times a Diet member has been elected, the timing in which one receives a parliamentary vice minister or state minister appointment depends on the number of times the Cabinet is reshuffled since the general election, and the number of peer Diet members in the same year. Many of the current four-time elected Diet members were first elected in the 2012 election, which the LDP won by a landslide, and among them only a few have experienced the state minister position.

Young Diet members receive a written statement before the appointment and inform the party executives of their choices as follows: Ministry XX for their first choice: Ministry YY for their second choice. Although it is not always possible to get what they want, people who have been assigned a difficult job until the appointment sometimes receive posts that they want as a reward for their efforts.

Reference 2: Number of times Ministers, State Ministers and Parliamentary Vice-Ministers have been elected (members of the House of Representatives only).

>Raise their interests by an early approach to a newly appointed Minister.

Diet members who have been newly appointed as minister or to other new positions are not often familiar with their area of responsibility, unless they have studied it on a regular basis. Nevertheless, as they are eager to make a difference in their new post, by approaching them as soon as possible we can raise their interest, and increase the likelihood they will commit to resolving the issues.

It may be possible to contact a Diet member whom you already know, but if you are a complete stranger, Diet members will inevitably be wary of the many people, including you, who contact them on the occasion of their inauguration. It is important to find an acquaintance of the targeted member and make contact with them as soon as possible through asking for an introduction.

The department in charge of each ministry and agency briefs the Ministers, State Ministers, Parliamentary Vice-Ministers, and Directors of Policy Divisions on the matters under their jurisdictions over a period of one or two weeks. Some Diet members may listen to your opinions if you approach their offices like, “I believe the ministries have explained about XX, but I would like you to hear the views of the private sector on it as well.”