Japan’s Abe Is Eyeing His Legacy. But First He Has to Get Through This Year

Japan’s Abe Is Eyeing His Legacy. But First He Has to Get Through This Year
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrives for a plenary session at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum, Davos, Switzerland, Jan. 23, 2019 (AP photo by Gian Ehrenzeller).

Shinzo Abe has already outperformed his five immediate predecessors, putting to rest the idea that a Japanese prime minister couldn’t stay in office for more than a year. Now, he is approaching a milestone. He will become the longest-serving prime minister in Japan’s history if he remains in office until November. But Abe is looking beyond that, with a chance to serve out his current term as prime minister until 2021, since he was overwhelmingly re-elected last fall for a third and final term as president of the governing Liberal Democratic Party, or LDP. The party can effectively determine the prime minister since it controls large majorities in both houses of the Diet, Japan’s legislature.

This moment has not been lost on Abe, especially after his disastrous and truncated first term as prime minister, which lasted from September 2006 to September 2007. But before Abe can start burnishing his legacy, he’ll have to get through a decisive year ahead.

The biggest item on the calendar is the upper house elections in July. If the LDP, along with its coalition partner, the Komeito, is able to maintain its two-thirds supermajority, Abe’s legislative options increase dramatically. If not, his plans may not be so grand.

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