Saturday, December 22, 2012

Abe's Back!

of JapanVisitor
from Flickr
Saturday December 22, 10:34 p.m.

Last Sunday, Japan held its Lower House elections. I had figured that the then-ruling Democratic Party of Japan would lose and the Liberal Democratic Party would come back after three years in the Opposition wilderness. I didn't figure that the win would be a landslide, but I guess the public was so fed up with the DPJ's floundering (et tu, Hatoyama) that the 50-odd percent that actually voted decided to do so with a protest vote. I say protest vote since I don't particularly see the new (old) guy as a ray of sunshine but the DPJ just couldn't do the job.

I remember when Shinzo Abe had his first run as the Prime Minister 5 years ago. Back then, he came into power after 5 years of the steadily ebbing Junichiro Koizumi. Here was a tall strapping fellow with nary a gray hair in his head (the youngest politician to become PM in the postwar period), who held hands with his wife in public (gasp) and had a couple of dogs. There was an Abe Honeymoon of sorts for a few months in the media, but it turned out that Abe merely talked the talk and not walked the walk. Pretty soon, he got mired in all the usual political mess that characterizes life in Nagatacho, including all sorts of woe befalling successive Agricultural Ministers, and within a year, he pretty much slunk out of office with a mea culpa of illness and an albatross of unpopularity. I only saw bits and pieces of his resignation speech, but he looked as gaunt as Munch's "The Scream".

Come back to 2012, and suddenly the guy who had been the dour face of the LDP for 3 years, Sadakazu Tanigaki, lost the party leadership to a resurgent Abe, who then came back in a big way by winning the election. I had thought the LDP would get the brass ring again but only with a coalition with some of the other minor parties. All he needed was the New Komeito to steamroller the DPJ into submission. I dunno....maybe he has learned the lessons to be needed to be a better leader in the five years, but I'm thinking of the phrase about leopards and their spots. Plus, I see him as a hawk which may not bode well for future relations with China and South Korea. And the second-most powerful Opposition party in the Lower House just happens to be the very right-wing Japan Restoration Party with former Tokyo governor Shintaro Ishihara as a major player, and he's the last guy who I would ever want as a Foreign Minister, even a shadow one. Within the Japanese media, it looks like they're portraying the new rulers as ones prioritizing the economy, but the international media is painting them in terms of international relations. Not sure which one will be taking the helm. Frankly, from what I remember of Shinzo Abe in his first try at PM, I see him as the Japanese equivalent of former Canadian PM Joe Clark.....a Conservative who may once again be pulled in all directions by many LDP puppetmasters.