[From September Issue 2013]
Following on from their success in the elections for the House of Representatives last December, the Liberal Democratic Party led by the 96th Prime Minister, ABE Shinzo, won another resounding victory in the elections for the House of Councilors this July. Because of this, the new coalition government, formed with the New Komeito party, now occupies the majority of seats in both houses. Advocating policies that prioritize bringing an end to deflation, Prime Minister Abe has set out to revive Japan’s economy. In addition, he’s decided to participate in the TPP (Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement) – an agreement that covers 40% of global trade.
Aiming to expand trade while protecting domestic agriculture, the Abe government’s negotiations for the TPP have exceeded the expectations of the USA and of other member countries. Meanwhile, the regime is promoting the export of social infrastructure construction, such as nuclear power stations and railroads. However, with the cleanup phase of the Fukushima nuclear power accident still not complete, many citizens have doubts about exporting nuclear power stations and about restarting nuclear power plants for economic gain.
In diplomacy, in order to deal with the ongoing tension with China, Abe is strengthening friendly relations and economic ties with Southeast Asian countries. With an eye to the security of Japan, he is also trying to strengthen ties with the USA. In connection to this matter he has a powerful desire to amend the constitution in order to evoke the right to collective self-defense, converting the self-defense force into a national defense force. However, this is strongly opposed.
A rise in consumer taxes is expected next year, but many people are anxious about this as it might lead to a downturn in trade. Though the Abe government faces many difficult issues, it won a landslide victory. The reason for this is the current electoral system and the fact that people prioritize economic recovery. In fact, in the single-seat constituency elections for the House of Councilors, there were fewer votes for the ruling parties than for the opposition parties.
According to a survey by Asahi Shimbun conducted after the elections for the House of Councilors, only 17% people believed that “approval of the LDP” was the reason for the LDP’s landslide victory. Conversely, 66% stated that, “The opposition parties were not attractive.” In the elections for the House of Representatives four years ago, the opposition party, the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), won a historic victory. If Abe’s government fails to rebuild the Japanese economy, it will share the same fate as the DPJ.
Prime Minister Abe’s Roots
Prime Minister Abe was born into a renowned political dynasty. His father is ABE Shintaro who was a foreign minister. Vital in deciding the fate of Japan during the cold war between East and West, the amendment of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty was successfully carried out by his grandfather, KISHI Nobusuke the 56th and 57th prime minister. Historic demonstrations strongly opposing the revision occurred, but he persevered in his belief saying, “A silent voice kept me going.”
His granduncle SATO Eisaku was the 61st – 63rd prime minister. Sato received the Nobel Peace Prize for upholding the three anti-nuclear principles, i.e. non-production, non-possession and non-introduction of nuclear weapons, in Japan. He brought about the restoration of Okinawa from America and served the longest consecutive term as prime minister in history.
Prime Minister Abe was sworn in as the 90th prime minister in 2006, but suddenly resigned after about one year for health reasons. This is his second attempt and demonstrates his intention to resurrect a “strong Japan.” Diplomatically he takes a hardline stance.