Even from the ‘hell hole’, chas­tened Abe rules on

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Less than six months ago Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe ap­peared poised to stay in power un­til 2021, be­com­ing Ja­pan’s long­est-serv­ing leader and ce­ment­ing a cov­eted place in his­tory. Now, the hum­bled hawk finds him­self fight­ing for his po­lit­i­cal life or, in the words of one ob­server, scram­bling to crawl out of a “hell hole”. What went wrong?

A com­bi­na­tion of fac­tors in­clud­ing nag­ging po­lit­i­cal scan­dals, ar­ro­gance, loss of trust and tone deaf­ness to vot­ers’ ev­ery­day concerns at the ex­pense of a na­tion­al­ist agenda have clipped Abe’s wings. But an­a­lysts say Ja­pan’s come­back kid has an ace up his sleeve likely to seal his rule for at least an­other year and pos­si­bly longer. There is no one else.

“It’s the ut­ter ab­sence of an al­ter­na­tive po­lit­i­cal choice, either out­side the LDP or quite frankly within it” that keeps him afloat, said Brad Glosser­man, a Ja­pan ex­pert at think tank Pa­cific Fo­rum CSIS in Honolulu, re­fer­ring to the rul­ing Lib­eral Demo­cratic Party which Abe leads. In­deed, the main op­po­si­tion Demo­cratic Party (DP) is im­plod­ing, its very ex­is­tence seen at stake. And while the LDP has no short­age of prime min­is­te­rial hope­fuls, none of them are seen as strong enough to take on Abe right now.

And though many have swooned over the po­ten­tial of charis­matic Tokyo Gover­nor Yuriko Koike, she is just a year into the job and has her hands full with the 2020 Olympics. Trou­ble brewed slowly but anger spilled over last month when sur­veys showed a pre­cip­i­tous de­cline in sup­port, with Abe’s ap­proval rat­ings reach­ing their low­est point over more than four years in of­fice.

His­toric drub­bing

Ac­cu­sa­tions Abe wielded in­flu­ence for a close friend in a busi­ness deal­which he has con­sis­tently de­nied­were a key fac­tor, as were other scan­dals in­clud­ing at the de­fense min­istry headed by his protege and fel­low hawk To­momi Inada.

And just be­fore lo­cal elec­tions in early July for Tokyo’s mu­nic­i­pal assem­bly-a bell­wether for na­tional sen­ti­ment-he fur­ther alienated vot­ers by shout­ing down heck­lers at a rally. The re­sult: the LDP suf­fered a his­toric drub­bing. Vet­eran an­a­lyst Mi­noru Morita, a harsh Abe critic who came up with the “hell hole” anal­ogy, said he also suf­fers from pre­dictable weari­ness with a long-serv­ing leader. “No mat­ter the gov­ern­ment in Ja­pan, af­ter three to four years the peo­ple will grow tired of it,” he said.

Still, Morita be­lieves that if Abe can get through the next year and stand for re-elec­tion as party leader in Septem­ber 2018, he is likely to win as he has more in­ter­nal sup­port than even lead­ing chal­lengers. Vot­ers also ap­pear re­signed to more Abe. “In the end he may be able to con­tinue in the sense that there just isn’t any­body else,” said Tokyo res­i­dent Ayumi Aratake. Abe last week reshuf­fled his cab­i­net min­is­ters, a typ­i­cal move by Ja­panese prime min­is­ters in trou­ble. — AFP

ASAKA: In this Oct 23, 2016, file photo, Ja­panese Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe, cen­ter, re­views mem­bers of Ja­pan Self-De­fense Forces dur­ing a pa­rade of the Self-De­fense Forces Day at Asaka Base. — AP

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Kuwait

© PressReader. All rights reserved.