Why the Party of Hope is a Real Threat
SNA (Tokyo) — Shinzo Abe’s greatest asset may now be transforming into a dangerous liability. For years the polls have been clear that Abe’s political strength was not based on any great public affection for the man, but rather the belief that he was the only politician capable of governing with a semblance of competence.
“Why do you support Abe?” The pollsters asked. The answer was quite often, “Because there is nobody else.”
There was no credible opposition party. There was not even a strong rival within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party. Abe endured because he faced no real challengers.
Yuriko Koike may have just changed all that. If the public believes that she is capable of handling the prime ministerial post, then Abe’s goose really might be cooked. After the Moritomo Gakuen and Kake Gakuen scandals, Shinzo Abe has just about worn out his public welcome, and is now widely seen as personally corrupt and dishonest. Meanwhile, Koike retains a great deal of freshness in her public image.
It’s also worth pointing out that for some time Japanese females have been less supportive of Abe than Japanese men. This has already been one of his political vulnerabilities, and Koike is perfectly positioned to exploit it.
Add to that a dash of populist appeal against nuclear power and higher consumption taxes, and you can see that the ruling party really ought to be worried.
Granted, Koike poses a serious threat in another direction too, and that is to Article Nine of the Constitution and liberal politics in general. Despite a few pseudo-progressive elements, Koike is undoubtedly a hard right politician, not very different in outlook from Shinzo Abe. She is a more modern conservative—without Abe’s hangups about his family history or rewriting the war—but she has already shown alarming flashes of racism toward resident Koreans and is no less hawkish than the incumbent.
If the Party of Hope inflicts a serious loss of seats on the Liberal Democratic Party in the October 22 elections, then Prime Minister Abe may be forced to either step down, or perhaps not to run for a third term as party leader next September, as he has long planned.
An irony has now arisen. With the rise of the Party of Hope, the prospects for Shinzo Abe to see his lifetime goal of remilitarizing Japan achieved have never looked stronger. But Yuriko Koike might just ensure that Abe himself won’t be the one lead the charge.
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