Japan’s Cabinet gets makeover as support for Abe dips

TOKYO — Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reshuffled his Cabinet on Thursday, seeking to repair his tattered approval ratings by installing well-known moderates in key roles.

Abe said he would focus on bread-and-butter issues such as jobs, a pledge he’s made in the past only to prioritize conservative issues such as amending the constitution.

“We will put the economy first,” Abe told reporters after the newly installed Cabinet posed for a customary inaugural photo in morning coats and formal gowns. “There’s much left to do.”

Abe said the appointments were made after deep reflection, based on the ministers’ strengths and experience.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, a key power broker who retained his post, announced the new lineup. It’s Abe’s fourth since he took office in late 2012. The last Cabinet was appointed about a year ago.

Public approval ratings for Abe and his Liberal Democratic Party have suffered after a spate of scandals over alleged cronyism and other abuses.

While the party enjoys wide support and is seen as the only realistic option given the lack of a united, popular opposition, many Japanese object to the Liberal Democrats’ tendency to force unpopular legislation through parliament.

Koichi Nakano, an international politics professor at Sophia University in Tokyo who is often critical of the ruling party, said the lineup was “dull” and defensive in nature.

“Abe’s cornered and one of the main goals of the reshuffle was to remove problematic ministers, although Mr. Abe himself is the root of many problems,” Nakano said.

Experts said they expect work on Abe’s pet conservative causes, such as strengthening the role of the military, will continue behind the scenes.

The shakeup reflects Abe’s recognition that despite the Liberal Democrats’ overwhelming majority in parliament, his own once seemingly…

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