Japan has voted to retain Shinzo` Abe as Prime Minister for another term. Together with the Buddhist-backed Komeito party, Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) will continue to govern the country after wining 325 of the 475 lower house seats. The resounding win has given Abe the potential of remaining in power for more than the next four years, a situation which has cemented Abe as one of Japan’s most dominant political leaders.
Known as a “right-wing hawk,” the lawmaker Abe was born in Yamaguchi into a family that was high-profile in the political world. Both Abe’s father and grandfather were members of the LDP. His father, Shintaro Abe, was a former foreign minister, and Nobusuke Kishi, his grandfather, was Japan’s prime minster from 1957 to 1960. Abe’s great-uncle Eisaku Sato later also became prime minister, holding the office from 1964 to 1972.
Abe graduated from Tokyo’s Seiki University in 1977, after which he studied political science at the University of Southern California in Los Angles. Returning to Japan in 1979, Abe joined the LDP and in 1982 was appointed secretary to the foreign minister, who at the time was his father.
In 1993, Abe gained his first parliamentary seat. During his time in the lower house he made clear his tough approach to North Korea. By 2002 Abe was deputy chief cabinet secretary, and in charge of negotiations with North Korea regarding 13 Japanese citizens who they revealed they had kidnapped in the 1970s and 1980s.
Shinzo` Abe continued to progress through the ranks of the LDP with the potential to become one of Japan’s most dominant politicians. In 2003 Abe became secretary-general of the LDP, and two years later he attained his first cabinet role. In 2006 Abe succeeded LDP leader and current Prime Minister, Junichiro Koizumi in both positions. The move saw Abe become Japan’s youngest prime minister since World War II, and the country’s first to have been born after the war.
Abe was seen as outspoken, and popular with voters; a man similar to his predecessor. During his term as prime minister, Abe aimed to present Japan as a greater force on the world stage. He worked toward more assertive foreign policy, and won public support with his tough approach toward Korea. The new prime minister also worked to develop a higher level of understanding with China.
However following a series of blunders and scandals both personally and within his cabinet, Abe’s position weakened, and he resigned after the LDP suffered a heavy loss in the 2007 upper house elections. Abe cited illness as the reason for his September resignation, after which he disappeared from his political spotlight.
Abe returned to the prime ministerial position in 2012, and in his first year of office further established his views on Japan’s global standing, proposing a move to free his country from the constraints of the imposed “post-war regime.” He also addressed territorial issues with South Korea and China, saying he promised to “…protect Japan’s land and sea, and the lives of the Japanese people no matter what.”
On the economic side, Abe set about introducing his growth strategy known as “Abenomics,” a program designed to initiate the country’s economic revival. Launched in 2013, the program’s three main ideas to boost the economy after two decades of deflation were to print additional money, increase government spending, and structural reform of key sectors such as healthcare, energy and agriculture.
Despite the benefits of his new policies waning after only 18 months, Abe has managed to establish Japan as a significant player in terms of global markets and diplomacy, and has brought the country to its current position as the world’s third-largest economy. Analysts are now speculating Shinzo` Abe’s actions as he returns for another term as Japan’s Prime Minster, declaring that his dominance as a politician is firmly established.
By Monica Grant
Photo by President of the European Council – Flickr Page