It has been impossible for any journalist in Japan, whether Japanese or foreign, to overlook the agony of the Asahi Shinbun over the past couple months. They have stumbled from one mistake to another, and in the process they have inadvertently energized the Japanese right and deflated moderates and liberals.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s rather bizarre decision to call an early general election at a juncture that is distinctly unfavorable to his personal interests has set analysts ablaze, wondering how many seats the LDP-Komeito coalition can lose before Abe’s gambit would be judged a political failure.
When a colleague recently asked us if we’d heard the rumor that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was considering a snap election in December, our first response was to wave it off as quite implausible. As we began to read such stories in the Japanese media, our second reaction was to view it as a likely bluff that the prime minister is using to discipline his own restive party members over the consumption tax hike issue.
Keiichiro Asao is among the most urbane and accessible of Japanese party leaders, and so he is in many ways a man that you want to root for. But in the nearly six months since he took over the leadership role of Your Party he has produced little prospect of a bright future for the organization.
There are many reasons for the hapless condition that the Japanese political opposition has fallen into, but one of the biggest factors surrounds the state and ambitions of the largest remaining opposition party, the Democratic Party of Japan. The question, put simply, is whether or not the DPJ should focus on trying rebuild itself into a party that may one day govern the nation again, or if it has fallen so low in public esteem that its lawmakers would better advised to jump ship and to start afresh with a new political party.
Almost seventy years after the guns fell silent, the Pacific War still haunts Japan in many ways. While the country’s reconstruction took place successfully, and Tokyo found a place in the Pax Americana underpinning economic growth in the Pacific for decades, historical disputes often make headlines and act as an obstacle to deeper relationships with countries such as South Korea.
Faced with a complex and increasingly dangerous regional scenario, under growing demands for naval hardware and diplomatic support from countries like Vietnam and the Philippines, in the midst of complex domestic negotiations concerning the evolving interpretation of constitutional provisions on security and defense, and faced with the need for Japan to redefine its international image, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe seems to have decided to emphasize the “rule of law” as a central tenet of Japanese foreign policy.