Abe elec­tion ri­val vows to re­gain trust

Sup­port for Ja­pan’s PM strong thanks to re­bound­ing econ­omy

China Daily - - WORLD - By CAI HONG in Tokyo cai­hong@chi­nadaily.com.cn

The Lib­eral Demo­cratic Party’s for­mer sec­re­tary-gen­eral Shigeru Ishiba has thrown down the gaunt­let to Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe for the party’s lead­er­ship in an elec­tion slated for Septem­ber.

Ishiba an­nounced on Fri­day that he will be in the race, plan­ning to cam­paign on a plat­form of “hon­esty and fair­ness” and promis­ing to “re­gain pub­lic trust in pol­i­tics”, a jab at fa­voritism and other scan­dals haunt­ing Abe.

He said Ja­pan needs to re­draw the grand de­sign to copy with chal­lenges such as a shrink­ing pop­u­la­tion, dis­par­i­ties be­tween ur­ban and ru­ral ar­eas, and chang­ing se­cu­rity cli­mate.

Dur­ing a visit to his con­stituency of Ya­m­aguchi pre­fec­ture on Satur­day, Abe said he was ready to win the third term as the LDP’s chief, adding that he car­ries much re­spon­si­bil­ity to re­vise the Ar­ti­cle 9 of the coun­try’s Con­sti­tu­tion.

He has pro­posed to add a ref­er­ence to the coun­try’s quasi-army Self-De­fense Forces while keep­ing in­tact the first clause of Ar­ti­cle 9, which re­nounces war, and the sec­ond clause, which re­jects Ja­pan’s pos­ses­sion of mil­i­tary power.

Ishiba is ex­pected to ap­peal for re­mov­ing the sec­ond clause of the ar­ti­cle.

The LDP elec­tion, which will ef­fec­tively de­cide who be­comes prime min­is­ter, would be a two-horse race be­tween Abe and Ishiba. The cam­paign will of­fi­cially start on Septem­ber 7.

The race will be a hard fight for Ishiba as Abe is now sup­ported by five of the party’s seven fac­tions, or about 70 per­cent of the LDP par­lia­men­tary mem­bers who have rights to vote.

Ishiba will be backed by his own group, which has 20 mem­bers, and some of the 55-mem­bered fac­tion led by Wataru Takeshita, chair­man of the LDP Gen­eral Coun­cil.

Abe, who took of­fice in De­cem­ber 2012, has had an un­ri­valed grip on power and was re-elected un­op­posed for a sec­ond term as LDP pres­i­dent in 2015. His cur­rent three-year term ex­pires on Septem­ber 30. If elected, Abe would be­come Ja­pan’s long­est-serv­ing prime min­is­ter. And it will be Ishiba’s third time to run in an LDP lead­er­ship elec­tion.

Still, the re­bound­ing Ja­pa­nese econ­omy could help Abe in his cam­paign in the elec­tion.

Job growth

Ja­pan’s econ­omy grew at a 1.9 per­cent an­nual pace af­ter con­tract­ing by 0.6 per­cent in Jan­uary-March, the Cab­i­net Of­fice said on Fri­day.

Con­sumers spent more thanks partly to a rise in earn­ings mostly fu­eled by strong half-year bonus pay­ments. The 2.1 per­cent gain in cash earn­ings in the last quar­ter was the strong­est since 1997 and job growth also re­mained strong.

Abe tweeted on Sun­day that he wants to see his tourism-driven de­vel­op­ment strat­egy drive lo­cal growth. For­eign tourists vis­it­ing Ja­pan have risen in the past five years. The num­ber will prob­a­bly hit 30 mil­lion this year.

An Asahi Shim­bun poll re­leased on Au­gust 7 showed that 32 per­cent of the re­spon­dents chose Abe, fol­lowed by 26 per­cent for Ishiba and 5 per­cent for In­ter­nal Af­fairs Min­is­ter Seiko Noda, who has not an­nounced her in­ten­tion to take part in the race.

Among LDP sup­port­ers, 59 per­cent se­lected Abe while only 20 per­cent chose Ishiba and 3 per­cent chose Noda.

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