On 28 August, Shinzo Abe announced his resignation as Prime Minister of Japan citing health reasons – the same reason cited for his first resignation in 2007. At the age of 52, Abe became Japan’s youngest post-war premier in 2006. He will be leaving the post as Japan’s longest-serving prime minister, having served an unprecedented four consecutive terms as premier.
Abe, like many of his colleagues in the incumbent LDP, comes from a political legacy. Abe’s maternal grandfather – Nobusuke Kishi, was Japan’s wartime leader in the 1950s. Abe’s father Shintaro Abe, served as the foreign minister in the 1980s. In his decade long tenure in office, he has forged his own legacy, eclipsing that of his grandfather and father.
Nobusuke Kishi (Shinzo Abe’s grandfather) is the man in the suit, with Abe seating on his lap. Source: The Times
Shinzo Abe’s family in 1956, from left to right, mother Yōko, 2-year-old Shinzō, father Shintarō Abe, and older brother Hironobu. Source: Wikimedia Commons
In 2012, Abe took over a Japanese economy that was coming out of a period of political and economic stagnation that followed the postwar boom. Abe sought to combat this with the now widely known ‘Abenomics’, a slew of economic policies that served as a shock therapy to the Japanese economy. Reviews were mixed about the policy. While it did stimulate a stagnating economy, whether that would lead to long-term economic progress remains to be seen (COVID-19 notwithstanding).
Representing the 3 arrows of Abenomics – aggressive monetary policy, fiscal consolidation and growth strategy. Source:Tofugu
Abe’s tenure was not short of controversies. In 2013, he resurfaced historical wounds within China and South Korea when he visited the Yasukuni Shrine – where Class A War Criminals are enshrined. Abe also raised eyebrows when he proposed a revision to Article 9 of the Japanese constitution – the clause in which Japan renounces her right to war and prohibited the maintenance of a military. Abe had also been criticised for his heavy-handed approach towards the media.
Prime minister Shinzo Abe in the Yasukuni war shrine, led by a Shinto priest to pay respects. Source: Shizuo Kambayashi/AP
It appears that COVID-19 has stained Abe’s legacy. The perceived mishandling of the COVID-19 crisis means that Abe will be leaving office with low approval ratings. Analysts suggest that the economic fallout of COVID-19 had largely erased any economic progress facilitated by Abenomics.
Abe’s failure to groom a successor has led to the LDP scrambling to fill the leadership void amidst a pandemic. Suffice to say that the next premier of Japan has to step up or risk the LDP stepping down.