Today was the end of an era in Japan. The race between factions of the Liberal Democratic Party to provide a new prime minister came to an end. The terse, inscrutably mannered Koizumi who had led the country towards a generally more relaxed and transparent way was succeeded as LDP party chief by till then Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe.
Abe is a politician from a vintage political family. His grandfather, Nobusuke Kishi (1896-1987), was Minister of Commerce and Industry during the war (1941-45) and prime minister from 1957 to 1960, resigning in the midst of the furore of opposition that engulfed the nation when the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation with the United States came up for renewal.
Abe is 51 - considered young for a cabinet minister here, let alone a prime minister, and Abe will become the first Japanese prime minister to have been born after World War II. During his campaigning amongst the LDP to become prime minister-in-waiting he focussed on the need to amend the constitution to allow Japan a more active military role in its partnership with the United States, and on the need for educational reform.
His stance on the constitution is more about foreign policy than anything else, and it is in this arena that he is most likely to leave his biggest mark. For all Koizumi did to restart Japan after its economic stalling, he also did a lot to erode Japan's credibility with its immediate Asian neighbors with his visits to Yasukuni Shrine. Abe is unlikely to move in a different direction, and looks set to continue to invest heavily in an American-allied future for Japan, keeping the country aligned against the rising power of China.
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Japan Shinzo Abe politics LDP Koizumi
Wednesday, September 20, 2006