Who is he?
Mr. Shinzo Abe is the President of Japan’s main opposition party, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). Abe recently regained the position of LDP president by winning a party leadership contest on September 26, 2012.
Abe was previously Prime Minister of Japan from September 2006 to September 2007 and comes from an illustrious political lineage; his father, Shintaro Abe, was Foreign Minister from 1982 to 1986, and his grandfather, Nobusuke Kishi, was Prime Minister from 1957 to 1960.
Why is he in the news?
Abe returns to the presidency of the LDP as the party is poised to regain power. Public support for the ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) has plummeted and the LDP is expected to make significant gains in the next election, which must be called before next summer. If the LDP takes control of Japan’s House of Representatives, Abe will likely be Japan’s next prime minister.
What can we expect?
A strong U.S.-Japan alliance is the centerpiece of Abe’s foreign policy agenda. He favors reinterpreting the Japanese constitution to exercise the right of collective self-defense and expand security cooperation with the United States and other partners.
Some media commentaries have expressed concern that an Abe government could complicate Japan’s relations with its neighbors during the current period of confrontation with China and South Korea over territorial claims in light of Abe’s recent visit to the Yasukuni Shrine, which honors Japan’s war dead, including some Class-A war criminals. (Abe did not visit the Yasukuni Shrine as prime minister.) Others note, however, that Abe chose to visit Beijing and Seoul in his first overseas trip as prime minister and has emphasized the importance of regional diplomacy.
In domestic policy, Abe has cautioned against the elimination of nuclear power in Japan’s energy mix, referring to a phase-out plan put forward by the DPJ government as irresponsible. He has also called for aggressive monetary easing to combat deflation and help boost the Japanese economy. Abe’s policy platform is to “build a strong and prosperous Japan” and additional details should emerge as the election approaches.