Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was reelected Thursday to another three-year term as head of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), setting him on course to become the nation’s longest-serving prime minister in modern times.
An election in which votes were submitted by parliamentarians and rank-and-file party members, Abe toppled his chief rival, Shigeru Ishiba, a former defense minister, with 553 of the 810 ballots cast.
Although Abe won with a convincing 82 percent among parliamentarians, the vote among party members was more modest with only 55 percent of rank-and-file voters favoring Abe’s return to the post of party leader.
Abe’s return as party leader was enabled by a change in rules which previously forbade a party leader from seeking a third consecutive term as party leader.
An election rematch with Ishiba, Abe has made constitutional reform the centerpiece of his premiership.
At the top of his governing agenda after his sweeping win: Amending the U.S.-written constitution to give statutory recognition to the Japan Self-Defenses Forces, a modest increase in sales taxes and reforming the nation’s social security program.
“I want to tackle constitutional reform together with all of you,” Abe told supporters following the vote.
Since Abe’s election in 2012, Tokyo has implemented an aggressive currency-weakening fiscal policy through an historic bond-buying program dwarfing the recent efforts of the U.S. Federal Reserve and European Central Bank which have made Japanese exports cheaper to buy.
Now reelected, Abe’s biggest challenges remain carefully negotiating a bilateral trade pact with President Trump, engaging with the U.S. and regional allies to solve the nuclear crisis on the Korean peninsula and improving ties with Russia, including the signing of a formal peace treaty with the Kremlin.
Should Abe remain as prime minister beyond 2021, he will have surpassed Taro Katsura as the longest-serving Japanese premier.
[Japan Today] [Wall Street Journal] [Photo courtesy Reuters via VOA]