The first round of the unified local elections on April 12 showed once again that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his ruling Liberal Democratic Party are in firm control of the nation. More than two years after the December 2012 general elections, there remains no sign whatsoever that the opposition parties are on the rebound or can even put up a decent fight against the ruling coalition.
In the year 2011 the Obama administration rolled out a new policy called the “Pivot to Asia,” which was supposed to herald a shifting of the United States’ attention and resources to the Asia-Pacific, deemed to be the most important geography for the emerging 21st century.
The Japanese economy has emerged from recession, helped along by low oil prices and a surging stock market. But at a household level optimism remains elusive.
The Nikkei, Japan’s most important stock index, hit a 15-year high last Friday with closing figures above the 19,000 mark. The advance of the stock market, which is largely owed to multinationals operating overseas profiting from Abenomics’ policy of monetary easing, along with a stable increase in demand from the United States, is a welcome success for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, whose hesitance to implement or clearly define the crucial “third arrow” of his economic policy has been criticized by politicians and economists alike.
Since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took to power for the second time in December 2012, many of his bills have been met by skepticism from politicians and the public alike. One of Prime Minister Abe’s least controversial reforms, however, is the plan to lower the legal voting age from 20 to 18 years.
Political donations have been a problem for Japanese politicians for a very long time. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has already has lost three of his ministers due to alleged violations of the Political Funds Control Law after the reshuffle of his Cabinet in September last year, and suspicions are being raised about a fourth, Education Minister Hakubun Shimomura.
Only days after Agriculture Minister Koya Nishikawa saw himself forced to resign over allegations of campaign funding irregularities, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s cabinet faces renewed challenges with another senior minister suffering similar allegations, as well as a concern about the role of government subsidy receiving firms that has touched even the prime minister and chief cabinet secretary themselves.
After having spent only six months in Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s reshuffled cabinet, Minister of Agriculture Koya Nishikiwa found himself forced to resign over allegations of wrongfully accepting campaign donations from the sugar industry. The decision to step down didn’t come as a surprise, as the critique about the funding scandal had been steadily building, even leading to questioning in the Diet, and eventually leading Prime Minster Abe to make a public defense of his agriculture minister.
The Sankei Shinbun has never been a newspaper that shies away from controversy. In a country that still struggles with its recent history and that is in the midst of allegedly far-reaching reforms, several of the conservative newspaper’s strongly opinionated pieces have given rise to controversy, raising questions about whether or not some of the newspaper’s activities could be called journalism at all–or whether “rightwing activism” would be a better label.
One of the major reasons for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s reelection last December, apart from a weakened and divided opposition, was the stability of economic policy. With a weakened yen, a stock index that is surging, and long-awaited inflation instead of deflation, Abe has been able to claim several successes.