A pattern of reshuffling in Japanese politics

By Satoshi Amako Source:Global Times Published: 2017/8/21 19:53:39

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

The Japanese public's support rate for the cabinet of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has plummeted. According to opinion polls conducted by some newspapers and TV stations, the rate at one point dipped below 30 percent.

What's worse, the Abe-led Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) suffered a stunning defeat in the Tokyo metropolitan elections in July and the LDP candidate lost in the Sendai mayoral election. Many people wonder if the Abe administration is coming to an end.

Indeed, the Abe administration has lost its glamour and has been in a passive posture. But it is too early to say that it is coming to an end.

The Abe administration is under attack for three reasons. The alleged involvement and the abuse of power of Abe and his wife in the Moritomo Gakuen scandal has irritated the Japanese public who has lost trust in him. Former defense minister Tomomi Inada concealed the peacekeeping records of Japan's Self-Defense Forces in South Sudan to hide the danger facing Japanese peacekeepers and made politically sensitive remarks ahead of the Tokyo metropolitan elections. But Abe had always indulged and supported Inada, which triggered dissatisfaction from the public.

Abe also pushed for the pacifist Constitution to be revised by 2020, an arrogant move criticized by the public as well. The LDP believed it is omnipotent as it scored an overwhelming victory in the last national elections.

However, the sharp decline of the Abe administration's support rate should be seen as a harsh warning toward the Abe cabinet and the LDP rather than a requirement for them to step down.

This should be attributed to the fact that there is no reliable opposition party in Japan's political arena.

Many people worry that if they overthrow the LDP administration and vote for a coalition government with the Democratic Party (DP) at the center, it may be a continuation of the nightmare during the DP's rule. Many Japanese people do not want to go down that path again and would rather lean toward the LDP.

The loss of the DP in the Tokyo metropolitan elections has proved this.

Meanwhile, there has been no middle-way party that can counterbalance the LDP. Opposition parties in Japan are weak and the DP seems ready to disband soon. But some new forces are emerging, such as the "Tomin [Tokyoites] First" party led by Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike which may evolve into a new national party.

Abe hopes to show new dynamism in governance through a cabinet reshuffle. He appointed eloquent Itsunori Onodera and Yoshimasa Hayashi as ministers of defense and culture. He also picked Taro Kono and Seiko Noda, who once criticized the Abe cabinet, as his ministers of foreign affairs and internal affairs and communication in a bid to win people's heart.

Although the Japanese public holds a reserved view toward Abe's tactics, his support rate has seen a comeback. The Abe regime is likely to retain its power until the next Lower House election.

Although the Abe administration may not fall any time soon, Japanese politics has seen a pattern of reshuffling. The Japanese people have also observed the situation closely. China should seek opportunities for peaceful coordination between the two countries.

The author is a professor at Waseda University. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn Follow us on Twitter@GTopinion


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