Japanese premier reshuffles cabinet ahead of sales tax battle

File photo of Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, who faces an uphill political battle to increase Japan's sales tax.

Story highlights

  • Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda appoints Katsuya Okada, a former party leader, as his deputy
  • Okada is expected to lead efforts to push through an unpopular increase in the sales tax
  • Noda also names new defense and consumer affairs ministers after opposition pressure
  • The prime minister is already facing sagging approval numbers four months into his tenure
Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda of Japan reshuffled his Cabinet on Friday in an effort to advance his unpopular plan to raise the country's sales tax and solidify his political power in parliament.
Noda appointed Katsuya Okada, a former secretary general of the governing Democratic Party of Japan, as deputy prime minister. Okada is expected to take the lead in the politically challenging task of pushing the legislation to double the sales tax through parliament.
Noda named Naoki Tanaka as defense minister and Jin Matsubara as consumer affairs minister. The new appointments are in response to pressure from the opposition party, which controls the parliament's upper house. The upper house last month censured both of the previous ministers.
The prime minister also named Toshio Ogawa as the justice minister and Hirofumi Hirano as education minister.
The new Cabinet was set to be formally inaugurated at the Imperial Palace on Friday afternoon.
The cabinet reshuffle takes place only four months into Noda's premiership. The prime minister is already facing sagging approval numbers.
The latest poll by the local agency Kyodo News shows that more than 50% of those surveyed disapproved of Noda's performance. Only 35.7 approved of Noda as prime minister, according to the same poll.