WHEN Prime minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party won by a landslide in the election last July everyone saw that it could allow him to make good on his promise to his constituency to restore Japan’s gone glory as a normal nation with global military power.
The LDP, together with its partner, the Komeito Party, which is the political arm of a Buddhist sect, has ruled Japan for 57 years, almost all the time since 1946 when the Japanese people regained the right vote for their own independent government despite their country still being under Douglas MacArthur’s US occupation forces.
One wonders if the LDP’s almost continuous rule is because the Japanese people are rigidly in love with stability or if the voters just can’t possibly like the opposition parties, specially the Socialist and the Communist parties, and don’t want to gamble on the Democratic Party, which they see as bumbling incompetents (the DP performed so badly when it had a chance to govern, handling matters ineffectively during 2011’s Great East Japan Earthquake and the Fukushima nuclear accident when, following the earthquake, a 15-meter tsunami disabled the power supply and cooling system of three Fukushima Daiichi reactors.
Mr. Abe’s landslide victory set a record. Japanese voters, for the first time, gave the LDP and Komeito more than two-thirds of the seats in the Diet. This is a genuine supermajority — not like the supermajority formed in our House of Representatives after minority party members opportunistically drop their old label.
With this kind of supermajority Prime Minister Abe can now pursue his avowed goal of erasing that clause in the Japanese constitution (which Japanese experts wrote, contrary to the popularly held belief that MacArthur wrote it for the emperor) that renounces war and declares that Japan will only have an armed force purely for defense and therefore will not venture abroad. That is why it is called “Japan’s Peace Constitution.” But the military’s venturing abroad has been amended–Japan now sends peacekeeping troops to trouble spots.
PM Shinzo Abe can now open up and let the world know that Japan is a military power–and is capable of global leadership in partnership with its old ally the United States and with that just-emerged global power, the People’s Republic of China.
Instead of sounding off as a nationalist, Mr. Abe has downplayed his security plans and announced that his priority will be to revitalize the economy. He will try his best to solve Japan’s fiscal and economic problems. While still the world’s third most powerful economy (it was the second to the USA for decades, until recently China reared its head), Japan’s rate of growth is dismally just above the negative line.
But last Wednesday (August 3), PM Abe completed a cabinet reshuffle that gave a signal that he has not veered away from his security agenda. He named Tomomi Inada, a well-known hardliner and nationalist, defense minister.
A lawyer, Ms. Inada has been visiting the Yusukini Shrine, which honors Japanese who died in WWII, among whom are convicted war criminals. She has angered China and Korea for justifying atrocities committed by Imperial Japanese soldiers.
She has been a member of the Diet for only 11 years. But she is quite an achiever and has already been referred to as a potential future prime minister. There has never been a woman PM in Japan.