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Reshuffle may save Aso

Reshuffling Japan's Cabinet may be one way to boost Prime Minister Taro Aso's tumbling support, a Cabinet minister said yesterday, as ruling party members grew increasingly worried about losing an election this year.

Surveys this week show public support for Aso, already slumping after policy flip-flops and gaffes, has fallen more since his close ally Shoichi Nakagawa resigned as finance minister last week after being forced to deny he was drunk at a news conference in Rome.

Kaoru Yosano has taken over the finance and banking supervision portfolios on top of his job as economics minister, but some are concerned these three key posts are too much for one person to handle amid a deepening recession.

Aso has said Yosano would keep the three jobs at least until budget bills are passed, which could be as early as next month but may be later.

"There will be a minor cabinet reshuffle when relieving Yosano from having three posts. Boldly scaling up the minor reshuffle is one option," Administrative Reform Minister Akira Amari, another close Aso ally, said.

Amari's comments, made as Aso traveled to Washington for a meeting with United States President Barack Obama, drew mixed responses from fellow members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura told a news conference that there was a common understanding Yosano could not hold the three posts forever, but whether and when a new minister takes on some of that burden was for Aso to decide.


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