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Japan prepares to reappoint Abe as PM

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Tokyo, Dec 24 (AP) - Japan was preparing Wednesday to name Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to his next term in office following his party's victory in a Dec. 14 snap election. Abe's Cabinet disbanded early in the day as a ritual first step. The parliament was to convene in the afternoon to elect Abe as prime minister. Abe is due to then appoint a new cabinet. Japanese media reported that the cabinet ministers will mostly remain the same, apart from the defense minister, Akinori Eto. Many of the ministers were appointed in a reshuffle in early September. Eto was one of several cabinet ministers whose political funding reports were questioned by opposition lawmakers during the recent parliamentary session. Two resigned but were re-elected anyway. The questions over political finance pulled Abe's popularity ratings lower and were likely a factor in his decision to call the snap election. Analysts said Eto's handling of the questions was seen as too weak, and that Abe planned to appoint a stronger figure to help handle anticipated fierce questioning over defense-related issues in the next year's parliamentary debate. The election's outcome was seen as a public endorsement of Abe's strategy for reviving the economy, despite a record low turnout. Abe, who took office two years ago, could stay in office for another four years but must call the next election by December 2018.