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      Noda Reaches Out to Liberal Democrats with Cabinet Reshuffle

      Japanese PM Yoshihiko Noda has sought to placate the opposition and revive public support by a cabinet shuffle.
      By Amiel Ungar
      First Publish: 1/15/2012, 4:01 AM

      Japanese Prime Minister Yushihiko Noda's cabinet reshuffle can be viewed as a prophylactic measure, as the Prime Minister's public approval rating is now less than 40%. He would not want it to reach the catastrophic levels that forced out his predecessors and gave the Japanese political system the appearance of a merry-go-round.

      A cabinet reshuffle does not convey stability, but the Japanese finance Minister Jun Azumi noted, "However, we need some rules to create consensus between the ruling and opposition parties. We have to strengthen our organisation and work hard to approve the sales tax hike in what is sure to be a difficult parliament session." This is the nub of the reshuffle. Noda is sending out feelers to the Liberal Democratic Party opposition.

      The above illustrates how little has changed since the replacement of the Liberal Democratic Party by the Democratic Party of Japan as the party in power.

      Neither of the two parties is sufficiently coherent about the fiscal policy that Japan has to take and since the Prime Minister is a fiscal hawk, he needs support from the LDP to compensate for the opposition of his intra party rivals, Additionally, the LDP controls the upper House of Councilors.within his own party.

      Indeed, some observers would like to see a realignment of the Japanese party system that would produce greater coherence but they are not holding their breath. To improve ties with the Liberal Democratic Opposition, Noda sacked his much-maligned Defense Minister Yasuo Ichikawa. The Minister's head was on the chopping block ever since he made light of a rape committed by American forces stationed in Okinawa and that has made renegotiation of the base  agreement more difficult. The Liberal Democrats had called for his head then and now the Prime Minister obliged

      Ichikawa. was replaced by Naoki Tanaka., While Tanaka is a member of the Democratic Party his father Kakuei Tanaka 's was a former Liberal Democratic Prime Minister and a major party powerbroker who parlayed his control over the construction industry into enlisting contractors to make substantial contributions to his faction within the party.

      The deputy prime minister ship goes to Katsuya Okada who served as the point man for the cross party talks on tax increases. The Prime Minister wants to increase the country's sales tax from the current 5% to 10% within three years to tame the deficit.