Yoshihide Suga has moved to appoint his cabinet after a vote along party lines in both houses of the Diet confirmed him as the new prime minister of Japan.
Mr Suga, 71, said his immediate priority would be to tackle the Covid-19 epidemic after succeeding Shinzo Abe, who stepped down as prime minister because of ill health.
Although Mr Suga has promised to be a reformer, early indications suggest his cabinet will retain numerous ministers from the Abe administration, a sign that he will put a high priority on political stability and continuity.
In what would be the most striking appointment, Mr Suga is expected to choose Mr Abe’s younger brother Nobuo Kishi as defence minister. He will also signal one of his reform priorities by appointing a cabinet minister responsible for digital policy.
Two power brokers in the ruling Liberal Democratic party — 79-year-old Taro Aso and 81-year-old Toshihiro Nikai — will probably remain finance minister and LDP secretary-general respectively. Toshimitsu Motegi, the foreign minister, and economy minister Yasutoshi Nishimura are also expected to stay in post.
Despite Mr Suga’s promise to appoint reformers without consideration for party politics, his cabinet is anticipated to be carefully balanced across the LDP’s internal factions.
“It’s the cabinet of a newcomer who doesn’t want to risk any failures,” Jun Azumi, parliamentary chair of the opposition Constitutional Democratic party, told reporters.
Taro Kono, 57, regarded as one of the favourites for a run at the premiership in future, will probably move from the defence ministry to become minister for regulatory reform. He will be charged with delivering on some of Mr Suga’s highest priorities.
Just two out of 21 cabinet members of Mr Suga’s cabinet are expected to be women: Yoko Kamikawa at the justice ministry and Seiko Hashimoto, who will be in charge of the Olympics. The imbalance will continue the Abe administration’s weak record on promoting women into top cabinet jobs.
Yoichi Masuzoe, the former LDP minister and governor of Tokyo, said the new cabinet showed Mr Suga’s solicitude for his allies.
Not only will Mr Abe’s younger brother be appointed defence minister, but Katsuei Hirasawa, the departing leader’s childhood tutor, will probably be given his first cabinet job at the age of 75.
The sons of two of Mr Suga’s political mentors are also expected to join the cabinet.
“The point is, are they up to the job?” asked Mr Masuzoe on Twitter.