Prime Minister Noboru Takeshita reorganized his Cabinet Tuesday in an effort to revive public confidence in his 13-month-old administration shaken by the worst government scandal in more than a decade.
The reorganization follows parliamentary approval of a sweeping tax reform, a major victory for Takeshita, who had staked his political career on its enactment. However, public sentiment for the legislation for the most part has been negative, further eroding Takeshita's support among the people.In the reorganization, Takeshita retained Foreign Minister Sosuke Uno, his official spokesman Keizo Obuchi and three other key ministers while replacing 15 other portfolios.
Takashi Hasegawa, 76, a follower of his rival Shintaro Abe, was appointed Justice Minister. Hasegawa will supervise investigations into the scandal, which involves sales of stock shares to selected political and business leaders before they were offered to the public.
Abe, currently secretary general of the LDP, is regarded as the leading contender to succeed Takeshita as head of the party and prime minister.
Takeshita distributed ministerial posts to members of major factions within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party in an apparent move to maintain unity and consolidate his power.
The party's unity is maintained in a balance of power among factions led by influential leaders.
The stock trading scandal dealt a major blow to the popularity of Takeshita's administration and cost Finance Minister Kiichi Miyazawa his job. Last week, Takeshita appointed Tatsuo Murayama, 73, a principal promoter of the tax reform, to fill the post vacated by Miyazawa.
Opposition parties said they will demand a thorough investigation of the scandal, which implicates aides of Takeshita, his predecessor Yasuhiro Nakasone, and other political leaders.
Recruit Cosmos Co., a real estate subsidiary of major information and publishing firm Recruit Co., offered its shares to selected politicians and businessmen at discount prices before they were listed for public transactions, enabling the purchasers to make big profits.