What is Abe Shinzo’s legacy?


Violence against Japanese politicians is not unprecedentedbut the assassination of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on July 8, days before a upper house electionshocked a nation known for its security and strict gun control laws.

The the oldest prime minister in Japan’s history, Abe presided over a period of remarkable political stability and decisive electoral victories in the lower house in 2012, 2014 and 2017. Citing health reasons, he resigned in September 2020 amid public criticism of his handling of the coronavirus pandemic – although covid-19 related deaths in Japan have been relatively low.

Abe came to power – first as prime minister from 2006 to 2007, then again from 2012 to 2020 – with a ambitious program remaking Japan’s economy and role in the world. Its namesake”Abenomics” policies aimed at reinvigorating the Japanese economy through monetary and fiscal stimulus while pursuing structural changes in areas such as agriculture, corporate governance, energy, Labor markets and women’s employment.

What Shinzo Abe’s assassination means for Japanese politics

Abe championed proactive leadership for the Japanese foreign policewhat makes it important changes at Security Politics and intensify Support for the liberal international order as its traditional defenders, such as the United States and Britain, retreated. He also took advantage of institutional changes in Japanese politics to stabilize his political regime.

Abe’s predecessors struggled to govern Japan

Japan’s political institutions have undergone significant transitions over the past three decades. In 1994, electoral changes in the lower house moved the incentives Japanese politicians, putting more emphasis on wide calls to the median voter rather than the traditional focus on pork barrel politics. Administrative restructuring started in 1998 offbeat power from bureaucracy to politicians. Cabinet secretarial staff triple over the past 20 years, giving the Prime Minister greater independent capacity to formulate policy.

Until 2012, Japanese leaders struggled to exercise effective leadership under Japan’s new political institutions. Electoral changes in the lower house were not reflected in the upper room, which made it difficult for parties to control both houses of the Diet, or parliament, while maintaining internal consistency. The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) governments of Abe and Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) were uncomfortable alternately by infighting and a divided government.

When Abe took office, Japan had seen a revolving door of six prime ministers lasting only about a year each – including Abe’s first term. The only recent prime minister to achieve longevity was Junichiro Koizumibut his approach – which relied on his personal charisma and an orchestrated assault on his own party – was not replicable.

Abe came to power with a model to rule Japan

Abe sought to overcome these issues with three main strategies. First, he tried to maintain strong public support by moving towards the growth themes of Abenomics whenever his popularity waned, such as after the controversial move safety legislation. His media strategy aimed to shape popular narratives by limiting and controlling access to the Prime Minister, deal with scandals quickly taking into account the news cycle and lobby critical media tone down their tone.

Second, Abe used elections as a mechanism to suppress internal dissent and enforce party discipline. The 2014 election set the tone, as Abe overcame opposition to a postponement of a consumption tax hike within his Liberal Democratic Party and the Treasury by calling an election and winning a mandate. audience. Its strong public support, which averaged nearly 50 percentmade the threat of early elections credible.

Third, Abe built on earlier institutional changes by focusing greater authority in the cabinet office and expanding control over staff decisions in the bureaucracy. He also implemented a variety of practical measures to improve coordination and public messaging, such as involving his top lieutenants in the Dietary Affairs Commission to coordinate legislative strategies.

The Japanese Prime Minister is a third generation politician. It’s more common than you might think.

On some goals, Abe missed

Abe was unable to realize his lifelong ambition to change the Japanese constitution, despite the supermajorities required by the Diet. This effort was hampered by lukewarm public support and the reluctance of the Komeito, his coalition partner in government. Despite considerable efforts, he could not solve the North Korean problem abduction of Japanese nationals Where conclude a peace treaty with Russia. He sought to solve the problem of the comfort women of the Second World War “definitively and irreversibly“, but the problem became globalizedand relations with South Korea continued to deteriorate.

There were also significant areas of omission. Despite changes in Japanese public opinion on social issues such as same sex wedding, Double nationality and allow married couples to use last names, the Abe government resisted change. at Abe’s climate change policies were unambitious, despite its green rhetoric. Journalists and the The United Nations critical Abe’s media strategy compromising press freedom.

Abe also benefited from good fortunes, such as the absence of major crises. A weak and divided opposition in an electoral system favoring single-member constituencies gave it a substantial structural advantage. His landslide victories came despite lukewarm public support for LDP policies.

Abe remained influential after his resignation. He was a key member and leader of the largest political group faction of the PLD, which gave him influence over his successors. His public statements on politics problems often made the headlines, and speculation continued that he would eventually seek to return to power.

Don’t miss any of TMC’s smart analytics! Subscribe to our newsletter.

Abe’s immediate successor, Yoshihide Suga, served as Chief Cabinet Secretary throughout Abe’s tenure. Suga tackled new problems including digital transformation and developed a more ambitious climate change policy. However, public support for Suga has suffered with successive waves of coronavirus and the scandal-ridden Tokyo Olympics. He eventually lost the trust of the LDP’s main power brokers – including Abe – and reluctantly resigned.

Abe played kingmaker in the subsequent LDP leadership election. He deftly maneuvered to undermine initial favorite Taro Kono by forcing a runoff that handed the LDP presidency to Fumio Kishida. Kishida claimed victory in October 2021 lower house election and Remains Popular: Abe would likely have remained an influential figure in the Japanese coalition government for the foreseeable future.

Abe was no stranger to controversy, and critics have raised legitimate concerns about his approach to governance. Nonetheless, he oversaw significant changes that endure and continue to shape Japan’s politics, economy, and foreign policy.

Teachers: Check out TMC’s ever-growing list of topical classroom guides.

Phillip Y. Lipscy is a professor in the Department of Political Science and the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy at the University of Toronto, where he also directs the World Japan Study Center. He is also a professor at the Faculty of Law of the University of Tokyo. He is editor, with Takeo Hoshi, of “The Political Economy of the Abe Government and the Abenomics Reforms(Cambridge University Press, 2021). This article updates a monkey cage pole published in September 2020.


Comments are closed.