Abe con­tin­ues his strug­gle to tide over po­lit­i­cal cri­sis

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - VIEWS -

Ja­panese Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe’s ap­proval rat­ing slightly re­bounded one day af­ter he reshuf­fled his Cab­i­net on Thurs­day, the third reshuf­fle since he re­turned to power in 2012, ac­cord­ing to lo­cal me­dia polls. A sur­vey con­ducted by Ky­odo News Agency on Fri­day showed an in­crease of 8.6 points in the rat­ing, com­pared with the pre­vi­ous poll. The 44.4 per­cent ap­proval rat­ing comes as a re­prieve for the scan­dal-hit Abe ad­min­is­tra­tion.

The new Cab­i­net lineup, as that in pre­vi­ous reshuf­fles, is de­signed to help the in­cum­bent ad­min­is­tra­tion to tide over a po­lit­i­cal cri­sis and shelve fac­tional dif­fer­ences within the rul­ing Lib­eral Demo­cratic Party. For Abe, it is all about dis­tract­ing at­ten­tion from the LDP’s de­feat by a novice ri­val in the Tokyo metropoli­tan elec­tion in July, as well as putting on a show of unity to win sup­port in the race for LDP pres­i­dency next year.

Hit hard by al­le­ga­tions of fa­voritism to a friend in a busi­ness deal, Abe made the dif­fi­cult de­ci­sion of ac­cept­ing the res­ig­na­tion of for­mer de­fense min­is­ter To­momi Inada a week be­fore the reshuf­fle. One of his fa­vorite po­lit­i­cal hard­lin­ers, Inada could not even com­plete one year in of­fice fol­low­ing a se­ries of gaffes and a cover-up, in which her min­istry con­cealed records of the ac­tiv­i­ties of Ja­panese troops on a United Na­tions peace­keep­ing mis­sion in South Su­dan.

The re­dis­tri­bu­tion of power and reap­point­ment of se­nior law­mak­ers, there­fore, look more like an at­tempt by the Abe ad­min­is­tra­tion to es­cape from trou­ble. Some min­is­ters are from Abe’s first Cab­i­net in 2012, Fi­nance Min­is­ter Taro Aso for ex­am­ple, and many are tak­ing up their old posts, such as De­fense Min­is­ter It­sunori On­odera. Th­ese ar­range­ments re­flect Abe’s ef­forts to bal­ance the in­ter­ests of prospec­tive can­di­dates for the LDP pres­i­dency when his term ends next year.

It takes ex­pe­ri­ence and ex­cel­lent pol­i­cy­mak­ing skills to lead Ja­pan’s rul­ing party, and not many con­tenders qual­ify for the job. Among the front-run­ners are for­mer for­eign min­is­ter Fu­mio Kishida, who now chairs the LDP’s Pol­icy Re­search Coun­cil, and party heavy­weight Shigeru Ishiba, who lost to Abe by a nar­row mar­gin in the 2012 con­test for LDP pres­i­dency. But nei­ther is an Abe pro­tégé.

Be­ing pop­u­lar among lo­cal LDP mem­bers, Ishiba seems set to make a come­back af­ter be­ing dis­tanced for long by the party’s cen­tral lead­er­ship. Ap­point­ing Kishida to a se­nior party post is a more likely choice for Abe to so­licit sup­port for re-elec­tion. But Kishida dis­agrees with Abe on the lat­ter’s pro­posal to amend Ar­ti­cle 9 of Ja­pan’s paci­fist Con­sti­tu­tion, which states Ja­pan should aban­don wars, cast­ing a shadow over the prime min­is­ter’s po­lit­i­cal cal­cu­lus.

It is ev­i­dent that Abe has been strug­gling to press ahead with his po­lit­i­cal am­bi­tions, par­tic­u­larly the so-called re­vamp of the ed­u­ca­tion and de­fense sec­tors. He wants to in­still in more Ja­panese peo­ple a stronger sense of “pa­tri­o­tism” and amend rel­e­vant laws to let Ja­pan wage wars again.

The ob­vi­ous con­tro­ver­sies aside, Abe’s wan­ing pub­lic ap­proval rat­ing alone could call into ques­tion his right to con­tinue as LDP pres­i­dent and Ja­pan’s prime min­is­ter. The reshuf­fle, how­ever, may bring some de­sir­able changes to Ja­panese pol­i­tics and prob­a­bly for­eign pol­icy. Known for crit­i­ciz­ing even the rul­ing party, Taro Kono, the new for­eign min­is­ter, can help al­le­vi­ate di­plo­matic ten­sions with neigh­bors such as China.

It is ev­i­dent that Abe has been strug­gling to press ahead with his po­lit­i­cal am­bi­tions, par­tic­u­larly the so-called re­vamp of the ed­u­ca­tion and de­fense sec­tors.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from China

© PressReader. All rights reserved.