Victory to embolden Abe in decision-making

By Chen Yang Source:Global Times Published: 2017/10/24 21:32:14

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

According to an Asahi Shimbun report, in Japan's lower house election on Sunday, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe won a two-thirds super majority. The Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan led by former chief cabinet secretary Yukio Edano became the largest opposition party while the Party of Hope led by Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike didn't achieve their expected result. Abe further consolidated his grip on power and will maintain his paramount status in the Japanese political arena.

After the snap election, the LDP will elect its president in September 2018. Given the fact that Abe has led the LDP to five consecutive national election victories since the end of 2012, it is estimated that he will win his third three-year tenure next year without much effort, leading the party through September 2021.

Besides, according to the Constitution of Japan, members of the House of Representatives shall be in office four years, which means the next general election will be in 2021 and Abe will likely remain prime minister until then.

2018 marks the 150th anniversary of Meiji Restoration. In April 2019 a new reign title will be implemented in Japan. In 2020 Japan will hold the Tokyo Olympic Games and see the 65th anniversary of the founding of the LDP.

If Abe can hold onto power till 2021, then whether he, passing through these major events, becomes Japan's greatest post-World War II prime minister is debatable. But one thing is clear: He will become the longest-serving prime minister in postwar Japanese history.

As the LDP also occupies the majority of seats in the upper house, with Sunday's victory the Abe government is expected to operate smoothly the next four years, with a low possibility of being challenged by the opposition. The political stability will enable Abe to continue implementing his economic policies, such as further devaluation of the yen. In terms of diplomacy, the Abe government is likely to deepen the US-Japan alliance by virtue of the North Korean nuclear issue and actively adjust Sino-Japanese relations.

According to the White House, US President Donald Trump will visit Japan November 5-7 and South Korea November 7-8. It seems he prefers Japan to South Korea given the length of his stay. Abe has had more phone talks with Trump than other foreign leaders: at least 13 calls so far. And the North Korean issue was mostly brought up during the calls, making it an important means of building up the two leaders' private relationship.

It remains unclear whether Trump will announce his Asia-Pacific policy during his visit to Japan and South Korea, but the North Korean issue will certainly be unavoidable. According to Japanese broadcaster NHK, Abe and Trump exchanged views on North Korea and reached further consensus on pressurizing Pyongyang during a phone call on Monday morning. The call seemed to set the tone of the US-Japan summit in early November.

Given Trump's harsh attitude toward North Korea and Abe's repeated play of North Korea's threat as Japan's national calamity in the election, the Abe government is likely to continue to hype the North Korean issue to maintain a close relationship with the US.

It is expected that Abe will adjust Sino-Japanese relations. On the eve of the lower house election, Abe visited the Chinese Embassy in Japan with cabinet members and LDP officials to participate in commemorative activities like National Day celebrations and the 45th anniversary of the normalization of the Sino-Japanese relationship. He expressed his hope to visit China formally the next year. It is the first time Abe attended commemorative activities at the Chinese Embassy since he took office and it was 15 years ago that a Japanese leader attended the anniversary of the normalization of the China-Japan relationship.

Given the special atmosphere of the normalization anniversary and the 40th anniversary of the China-Japan Peace and Friendship Treaty next year, it is highly possible Abe will push for improved relations with China. He may strive to hold a trilateral summit with China and South Korea in Tokyo, thus creating a beneficial atmosphere for the development of Sino-Japanese relations.

The author is a PhD candidate at the graduate school of sociology, Toyo University.


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