After becoming the longest-serving Japanese prime minister and leaving power in 2020, Shinzo Abe remained the most influential politician in the country until this Friday, the day an attack ended his life.
Shinzo Abe sweeps the elections and paves the way to reform the Japanese pacifist Constitution
Abe, 67, was the mentor of Japan’s current Prime Minister Fumkio Kishida, who has upheld the main pillars of his predecessor’s political strategy since he came to power in October last year.
Despite his withdrawal from the front page, the charisma of the “hawk” Abe and his frequent pronouncements on thorny issues such as the reform of Japan’s pacifist Constitution or tensions with China continued to define the agenda of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (PLD), in contrast with Kishida’s more moderate tone.
The former president no longer held any high official position in the Government or in his party, although he kept his parliamentary seat, led the main faction within the PLD and, according to political gossips, pulled the strings of the conservative party at will.
Supporter of more competences in Defense
In recent months, he has once again made headlines and put his “protege” Kishida in trouble with statements in which he pointed to a Japanese military intervention in the event of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan, or in which he was in favor of Japan harboring weapons US nuclear.
Abe left the head of the Japanese Government without having been able to achieve his political priority, that of expanding national defense powers, for which a constitutional reform would be necessary that until now has not had sufficient political or citizen support. This possible reform is in fact one of the key issues in the by-elections for the Upper House of the Japanese Parliament that are being held this Sunday.
Abe, despite his poor health – he retired in 2020 due to a stomach illness and already left a brief previous term in 2007 for similar reasons – got involved in the campaign by participating in rallies across the country, trying to to put his pull among the most conservative voters at the service of his party.
Politics in the veins
Born on September 21, 1954 in Tokyo, but raised in Yamaguchi prefecture, the region of southwestern Japan where the samurai clan from which his family descended, Abe had politics in his veins.
His maternal grandfather was the imperialist Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi, imprisoned for three years as a war criminal after World War II, but later exonerated and elected Prime Minister in 1957 and 1960. His father, Shintaro Abe, was Foreign Minister in the governments of Yasuhiro Nakasone in the 1980s.
Another figure that marked his career was that of his great-uncle and Nobel Peace Prize winner Eisaku Sato, one of the country’s longest-lasting chief executives (1964-1972), and whom Abe surpassed by chaining mandates between December 2012 and September of 2020.
Graduated in Political Science in 1977 from Tokyo Seikei University, Abe completed his studies at the University of Southern California (USC) before joining the workforce in 1979 at Kobe Steel.
Three years later he began to get involved in politics as an adviser to his father, who shortly after would assume the Foreign Ministry portfolio, but it was not until 1993 when he obtained a deputy seat from the Liberal Democratic Party representing a district of his native prefecture, Yamaguchi.
This trajectory was consolidated in 2003 with his appointment as secretary general of the PLD, a position that he combined with that of Junichiro Koizumi’s cabinet spokesman, whom he would succeed in 2006 as prime minister.
At just 52 years old, Abe became the first chief executive of Japan born after World War II, although that first term would last just one year due to his aforementioned health problems.
An international profile
His political legacy highlights the greater international profile that Japan acquired under his command, strengthening relations with the United States and the European Union and trying to improve ties with Moscow, with whom Tokyo has territorial disputes, although this rapprochement was cut short with the invasion Ukrainian Russian.
So was his turn towards a heavy-handed policy with North Korea, with whose regime Tokyo had been relatively benevolent until a Pyongyang plot to kidnap Japanese was confirmed in 2002, which Abe himself tried to solve as chief negotiator for the Japanese government. or his association with Nippon Kaigi, Japan’s main ultra-conservative lobby group to which Kishida and many of his party’s leading politicians also belong.
Another of his great milestones was “Abenomics”, his economic strategy coordinated with the Japanese central bank designed to get the world’s third largest economy out of its long deflationary cycle based on large public spending and ultra-low interest rates, among other flexibility measures. .
Although Kishida is committed to what he defines as “a new capitalism”, in practice his economic program is a carbon copy of “Abenomics”, which is currently being questioned more than ever due to accelerated inflation in Japan due to factors external and its ailing economy.