TOKYO — Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori launched a new Cabinet on Tuesday, cutting the number of posts and beefing up the lineup with two influential former leaders. Even so, doubts remained over his ability to run the nation.

To bolster an eroding power base, Mori gave key positions to former prime ministers Kiichi Miyazawa and Ryutaro Hashimoto.

"There's an election next year, so they want to do anything they can to improve the image," said Ronald Morse, a politics professor at Keitaku University. "They can't kick Mori out, so they have to surround him with people that look good."

Mori still faces major tasks, namely the revival of Japan's still-struggling economy, a government restructuring plan that takes effect next month and elections for Parliament.

"Mori is the weakest prime minister in history. I don't think they can do much," said Shigenori Okazaki, a political analyst at UBS Warburg in Tokyo. "This is another government of the status quo."

Many Japanese agree.

"I don't have any hopes that the new Cabinet will bring any changes," Masaki Nagase, a 35-year-old office worker, said outside a Tokyo coffee shop. "What we need is to remove that prime minister."

Following the mass resignation of his Cabinet in the morning — an expected formality — Mori had the difficult job of putting together a lineup that satisfied rival factions within his Liberal Democratic Party and a public unhappy with his performance since he took office in April.

Stressing the need for continuity, Mori had several ministers retain their former posts and drew almost exclusively from the ruling three-party coalition.

This is the first time in Japan's history that two former prime ministers serve simultaneously as Cabinet members.

But the presence of Hashimoto, a powerful politician who controls the LDP's largest faction, could give Mori's administration a renewed sense of legitimacy along with the influence it needs to pass key legislation in Parliament.

The new Cabinet included some familiar faces: Yohei Kono remained on as foreign minister, and outspoken Chikage Ogi kept her post as construction minister. Masahiko Komura, a former foreign minister, was appointed to head the Justice Ministry.

Mori did make some changes — including appointing Hashimoto to serve as head of Okinawan affairs and government reform — and he's hoping the change will bolster his sagging administration.

Public opinion polls put his support at under 20 percent, and he just barely survived a rebellion within his own party to beat a no-confidence motion two weeks ago.

"We have to regain public trust," said Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda, who retained his post. "We are committed to tackling various reforms to have a newborn Japan."

Mori's new Cabinet can expect some difficult months ahead.

Figures released this week showed that although the nation's economy is expanding, it is still not clearly on the road to recovery after its worst slowdown in decades. Concerns have been raised that Mori is not strong enough to push for any tough economic measures.

Such concerns showed in the financial markets' reaction to the reshuffle news.

The Nikkei Average, the main barometer of Japan's stock market, has fallen to near two-year lows. The Nikkei fell further Tuesday, down 1.74 percent at the close.

"As there do not appear to be any changes ahead, the market has no hopes for improvement," said Akihiro Niinomi, an analyst for Tokai Bank in Tokyo.

Another challenge for Mori's Cabinet will be the new bureaucratic framework initiated to make Japan's government less cumbersome and more responsive to the nation's needs. The streamlining goes into effect next month.

To reflect the changes, the current 22 Cabinet portfolios will be reduced to 17, with many of the former posts combined and other new positions created.