TOKYO: A former wrestler and television anchorwoman are expected to become part of Japan’s Cabinet on Wednesday, as part of a reshuffle by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expected to keep most major portfolios the same.
Abe collected letters of resignation from ministers at a noon meeting, local media reported, ahead of a reshuffle that is expected to see about half the cabinet keep their posts for the run up to next year’s election.
The premier has switched his focus back to the country’s flagging economy after expending political capital pushing unpopular security legislation, which could see Japanese troops fighting abroad for the first time in 70 years.
With this in mind, multiple reports say Abe is scheduled to promote his Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato, 59, to a newly created portfolio encouraging greater workforce participation.
Kato, a former finance ministry bureaucrat and a father of four daughters, is also likely to take charge of female empowerment — a key element of the so-called “Abenomics” reforms unleashed more than two years ago.
Abe has repeatedly said women were a key part of his flagship bid to kickstart the world’s number three economy and he has pushed for them to fill more senior roles in politics and business.
Yet the premier is expected to appoint only three female lawmakers as ministers, down from five appointed in the shake-up in September last year, two of which are expected to be new.
Tamayo Marukawa, a 44-year-old former television anchorwoman, will become environment minister and 50-year-old Aiko Shimajiri will be minister in charge of Okinawa and northern territories, local media reported.
The expected reduction in female cabinet members comes less than two weeks after Abe vowed to push initiatives for women’s empowerment at a United Nations meeting in New York.
Hiroshi Hase, a colorful 54-year-old professional wrestler-turned-politician, will also be given the education portfolio, local media said.
His predecessor, Hakubun Shimomura, resigned last month over abandoned plans for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics main stadium after the venue’s eye-watering $2.0 billion price tag sparked a public backlash.
Abe is expected to retain about half of the current 19 cabinet members, including those heading up the key finance, foreign affairs and economics ministries.