Shinzo Abe: The Longest-Running Prime Minister in Japanese History

Shinzo Abe has led the Japanese government for over 2887 days. Political forces in the country interpret this differently. Opposition parties have long been trying to knock him down, but so far without success. On the one hand, the stability of power is useful for the country's sustained policy. As Shinzo Abe said, “when governments changed every year, as it was after my first election, critical political problems were put away for later.” However, on the other hand, many fear Japan’s  political inclinations are too strong, and oriented in only one direction — toward the United States.

There is nothing mysterious about the political vitality of Shinzo Abe. The reason for the duration of his stay in office is very simple. There are no other politicians in the Liberal Democratic Party who are able to lead the government. Judging by the ratings of other parties, it is also unlikely that one of them will be able to change the LDP in power. Abe's rating is kept at a fairly stable level, although recently it has fallen slightly below 50% due to the “annual cherry blossom-viewing party” scandal. The Japanese opposition parties are trying to put an end to Abe’s power by using any minor scandal as a pretext, but these attempts are unlikely to be successful.

What is the basis for a positive assessment of Abe’s work? Mostly his diplomatic activities. Although Abe has few concrete achievements, his activity and energy provide Japan with a prominent place on the world stage.

It should be noted, that due to the peculiarities of the postwar history of Japan, in security matters, the country relies on the United States. However, Mr. Abe is also trying to strengthen Japan’s own position in the world.

Unfortunately, Shinzo Abe did not achieve a positive result in negotiations with Russia on the conclusion of a peace treaty, although he met with Russian President Vladimir Putin 27 times in an attempt to solve this important historical problem in the interests of the Japanese people.

In general, the lack of progress on this issue causes irritation and disappointment among the Japanese people and spoils Abe's reputation. Anyway, most Japanese people think that no one can do it better than him. Even if Abe cannot achieve a breakthrough in Russian-Japanese relations, it is only because Russia has a very firm and principled position on the Northern Territories issue. These are not disagreements that are easy to negotiate. If there is a solution, then there is only one: to make a political decision and sign a peace treaty, postponing the territorial problem for a future solution, as Mr. Putin unexpectedly suggested at the WEF-2018 plenary meeting.

However, this option is unacceptable for Japanese society, although, in my personal opinion, it could be consistent with Japanese state interests, as it would enhance the investment of Japanese business in Russia and provide an opportunity for the joint development of mineral resources in Siberia and the Far East. At the same time, a large and still practically unexplored market would open for Japanese exporters and travel companies. This would bring far more benefits to the Japanese economy than the estimated benefits from the Kuril Islands. The Japanese economy would even get a chance to get rid of chronic deflation.

The longer the negotiations between governments on the Northern Territories drag on, the more benefits will be lost that the Japanese could get during this time. However, it seems that under Shinzo Abe, it would not be possible to reach an agreement with Russia on this issue. This is very unfortunate, because Abe’s successor, whoever he is, is unlikely to establish a better relationship with the Russian president.

Secrets behind Shinzo Abe’s Political Longevity
Dmitry Streltsov
Abe's unprecedentedly long rule is an upshot of the mediacracy epoch that makes the domestic political positions of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party increasingly dependent on the popularity of its leader.
Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.