Abe's Gone . . . Is the LDP Next?

One day after the abrupt resignation of Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe, Burgess Professor of Political Science Gerald Curtis spoke before an audience of about 170 at the School of International and Public Affairs on September 13, 2007. The speech, titled "Abe's Gone . . . Is the LDP Next?" focused on Abe's one-year tenure as prime minister and the reasons for his fall from power, the July election defeat of the Liberal Democratic Party, and future prospects for Japanese politics, the economy, and foreign relations. Although Abe started out with high approval ratings and made positive initial overtures to neighbors such as China, he soon fell out of favor with the Japanese public after a series of public gaffes by his cabinet, poor crisis management of a situation involving 50 million lost pension records, and vaguely stated policy goals such as constitutional revision and making Japan a "beautiful country." He seemed out of touch with a constituency concerned about its own economic well-being, especially in rural areas that felt left behind by reforms instituted by his popular predecessor, Junichiro Koizumi. Professor Curtis reviewed the reasons behind the LDP's crushing defeat in the July Upper House Diet elections. The public's three "nos" were a no to Abe's priorities, favoring vague ideological issues over economic issues, which were a greater concern to the voting public; a no to Abe's crisis management, evidenced especially in his response to the pension scandal; and a no to economic reforms that neglected the rural farm areas. The next prime minister, Yasuo Fukuda of the LDP, faces an uphill battle on several key fronts. A resurgent Democratic Party of Japan led by Ichiro Ozawa threatens the LDP's traditional power base in the hinterlands and will most likely scuttle attempts to renew antiterror legislation in the Diet, which allows the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force to refuel foreign naval vessels in the Indian Ocean. But Fukuda brings a sense of balance, stability, and experience to the office of the prime minister, which is exactly what the public is looking for after the five and a half years of Koizumi's charismatic leadership and the disastrous one-year tenure of Mr. Abe.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Center on Japanese Economy and Business
Center on Japanese Economy and Business, Columbia Business School
Published Here
June 17, 2011