Japan's Abe wins party vote; set to become longest-serving PM
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe won comfortable re-election as leader of his ruling party today, setting him on course to become Japan's longest-serving premier and realize his dream of reforming the country's constitution. The 63-year-old conservative secured 553 votes against 254 won by former Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba, a hawkish self-confessed "military geek", in a two-horse race for leader of the Liberal Democratic Party.
Despite criticism and scandals, Abe got huge public support
The win effectively hands Abe three more years as PM, giving him the chance of breaking the record for Japan's longest-serving premiership held by Taro Katsura, a revered politician who served three times between 1901-1913. Public support for Abe, a political thoroughbred whose grandfather and father both held power, has recovered after he managed to survive a series of cronyism and cover-up scandals.
Abe to attend UN General Assembly and meet Trump next
Now reconfirmed with power, Abe will now head to New York this weekend to attend the UN General Assembly and hold a summit with US President Donald Trump. Abe and Trump, who are close diplomatic allies, are expected to analyze the latest inter-Korean summit. But they will also have to confront a growing trade dispute as Trump sees Tokyo among "unfair" trade partners.
Abe wants to revise Japan's post World War II constitution
While Japanese voters put the economy and social security as their top priorities, Abe aims to use the election to push his dream of reforming the country's post-World War II pacifist constitution.
What does Abe want to change in the constitution?
Nationalist Abe has frequently voiced his wish to rewrite the nation's constitution, imposed by the victorious US occupiers, which forces the country to "forever renounce war" and dictates that armed forces will "never be maintained". Abe insists any changes would merely remove the country's well-equipped Self-Defense Forces from the constitutional paradox whereby they should not technically exist.
Political scientist highlights why revising constitution is a bad idea
But any changes to the text would be hugely sensitive in pacifist Japan and almost certainly greeted with fury in China and the Koreas, 20th-century victims of Japanese military aggression. Even if Abe manages to force a revision, he'd face a referendum, raising the prospect of a Brexit-style political meltdown if people vote against him, said a political scientist from the University of Tokyo.
Also, Japan faces aging population and sluggish economy
In addition, surveys show that tinkering with the legal text is far from the top of most Japanese voters' to-do list, as the country faces an aging and declining population and a still-sluggish economy. Acknowledging concerns over the economic outlook, Abe said he plans to introduce "bold" stimulus measures to ease the expected impact of a tax hike scheduled for October next year.
Japan govt's spending, bank's ultra-loose monetary policy weakening the yen
Japan's economy has been expanding for the past few years at a slow pace thanks to the Bank of Japan's ultra-loose monetary policy and huge government spending, which led to a weak yen, a key positive element for Japanese exporters. But analysts warned US-led trade wars could be a major risk factor for an economy still struggling to win a long battle against deflation.