Shinzo Abe announced that he was resigning from his post on August 28, 2020. He stated that he was doing so in light of extreme health issues, and apologised to the people of Japan for failing to complete his term in the office and for leaving the nation in a period of political uncertainty. At the age of 65 years, Abe suffers from a chronic condition called ‘ulcerative colitis’, which he was diagnosed with when he was a teenager. It is an inflammatory bowel disease that has accentuated recently, prompting him to take this drastic precaution for his health. He had resigned even earlier in 2007 due to this condition. After this, his new period in the office started in 2012, and he has been loved by his people ever since.
A member of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), his reputation is that of a strong nationalist and conservative. His right tilted political front with the Liberal Democratic Party has boosted its popularity. Abe has led it in both the houses of Japanese Parliament. He has developed a stronghold in economic policy on a self-named programme known as ‘Abenomics’, which he introduced in 2012. An output plan to jumpstart Japan’s economy, it has been focussed on the stagnant growth of monetary policy, fiscal stimulus and structural reforms. The success of Abenomics has resulted in a double-edged sword with him aggressively focusing on the first two promises, yet sorely lacking in structural reform. Although his win in the consecutive elections has not been entirely because of this policy, it has played a crucial role. Mr Shinzo Abe has mostly been lauded for his representation as a modicum of stability in Japanese political history.
Abe’s Political Bandwidth
Developing a rare close personal relationship with Trump, demands erupted for him to pay more to support around 55,000 American troops on bases across the country. He has maintained a coalition of 11 countries around the Pacific Rim in a trade agreement called the Trans-Pacific Partnership. He had a firmer stance on North Korea in his foreign policy plans. In 2014, he developed Japan’s relationship with the Association of South-East Asian Nations and Australia. He became the first Japanese Prime Minister to attend India’s Republic Day parade as a Chief Guest. He had also maintained good relations with Xi Jinping, the supreme leader of China, before the pandemic and the Hong Kong protests. As stated by an Assistant Professor of Asian Studies at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, “He managed to really elevate Japan’s profile on the international stage and make substantial changes in policy across a number of issue areas, and in Japan that is something we have not seen very often.”
But right before his resignation, analysts have noticed that the majority were discontented with Abe. The way he handled the coronavirus outbreak in Japan, and in particular its effects on the economy, undid the fame of what Abenomics achieved. A holistic assessment of his tenure has revealed that he prioritised stability over high-handed risks of huge transformations, which is what helped him rise to power and assured him an important position in Japanese history.
Mr Yoshihide Suga has a central role as the Chief Cabinet Secretary in the current administration. The LDP announced on September 14, 2020, that he will be the direct successor of Shinzo Abe as Prime Minister of Japan. This comes as a surprising announcement because there are many leading Japanese lawmakers who are direct descendants of elite political families, but Mr Suga isn’t one of them. Part of his charisma is that he has worked his way up from his middle-class upbringing to such a position. He held his position alongside Shinzo Abe for a long time, signifying his role in continuing Abe’s legacy. Years of gaining shadow power will result in his abilities to handle the top position, as his victory in the LDP has illuminated his formidable political skills. However, there have been glimpses of his politics that have concerned some critics. He is said to have been behind some of Abe’s most authoritative decisions, including consolidating power over Japan’s bureaucracy, and tactics to silence criticism in the media. But despite apprehension from certain voices, more than half the nation supports his takeover as the subsequent Prime Minister.
As he has already epitomised a status quo, Mr Suga has been a major catalyst for national change. He has pushed through some contentious security laws that have allowed for Japan’s military power to join overseas combat missions alongside its allies. His vision for Japan will muster fresh outlooks on the country’s deepest problems and challenges. He has proclaimed to pursue some of Abe’s cherished goals that he couldn’t complete. This includes the completion of a revision of Japan’s pacifist Constitution and a promise for the return of Japanese citizens that North Korea had kidnapped. With the global turbulence from the pandemic and the gradually increasing geopolitical threats in Asia, Japan needs a successor such as Mr Suga to run its course by re-establishing a stable political backdrop. Best described by his high school classmate Hiroshi Kawai in Mr Suga’s hometown Yuzawa City, “We have such proverbs as ‘great talents are slow to mature’ and ‘a wise falcon hides its talons’, now I realised that those words were created for Mr Suga.”
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