Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will give Shinjiro Koizumi, a rising political star touted as a future Japanese leader, his first ministerial post in a Cabinet reshuffle on Wednesday, sources familiar with the matter said Tuesday.
Koizumi, a son of former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, will be named as environment minister, the source said. The 38-year-old has been increasingly in the news since making a surprise announcement last month at the prime minister's office of his marriage to TV personality Christel Takigawa.
The high-profile addition to the Cabinet lineup is apparently aimed at lifting approval rates following the first major overhaul in about a year that would otherwise see familiar faces and Abe's allies with similar political views filling key posts.
With most of the current members set to be reshuffled, the makeup of Abe's new Cabinet includes Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasutoshi Nishimura as economic revitalization minister, according to the sources. Nishimura will be put in charge of social security reform, one of Abe's major policy agendas.
Isshu Sugawara, a ruling party lawmaker who once served as a senior vice finance minister, is tipped to become the next trade minister amid a bilateral dispute with South Korea over Japan's tighter export controls.
Abe's confidant Koichi Hagiuda, executive acting secretary general of the Liberal Democratic Party, is expected to serve as education minister, the sources said.
Abe is aiming to maintain stability by keeping his allies close within the government or the party leadership, particularly after the LDP-Komeito coalition secured a solid result in the July upper house race.
(Shinjiro Koizumi (L) and Christel Takigawa)
He now stands a good chance of becoming the country's longest-serving prime minister in November, making it more likely he will advance efforts toward achieving constitutional change, a long-cherished goal of the leader and the LDP.
Katsunobu Kato, currently chairman of the LDP's decision-making General Council, is expected to be reinstalled as health minister, the sources said.
Abe's special advisers are also expected to get Cabinet posts, with Taku Eto installed as farm minister and Seiichi Eto as minister spearheading Japan's efforts to address the declining birthrate.
Among other key ministerial posts, Foreign Minister Taro Kono is expected to become defense minister, while Abe has already made up his mind to name current economic revitalization minister Toshimitsu Motegi as foreign minister.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga and Finance Minister Taro Aso, who doubles as deputy prime minister, are the only ones set to retain their posts, which they have held since Abe returned to power in late 2012.
Katsuyuki Kawai, Abe's special aide on foreign affairs, will likely become justice minister, while Sanae Takaichi is expected to take up the post of internal affairs minister again, the sources said.
Former speed skater and Olympic bronze medalist Seiko Hashimoto looks set to become the country's minister for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.
Abe will revamp the LDP leadership team on Wednesday morning before the Cabinet reshuffle, with trade minister Hiroshige Seko likely to become secretary general of the ruling party's upper house caucus, according to the sources.
Former education minister Hakubun Shimomura, who now heads the LDP's panel on promoting constitutional reform, is expected to assume the post of election chief.
Former Defense Minister Tomomi Inada is expected to take over from Hagiuda as executive acting secretary general, the sources said.
Abe is set to keep the backbone of the LDP executive team, retaining Secretary General Toshihiro Nikai and policy chief Fumio Kishida. Olympics minister Shunichi Suzuki will be an addition to the lineup as chairman of the General Council.