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Fri, 23rd June 2017

Anirudh Sethi Report

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Archives of “Politics of Japan” Tag

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s approval rating plunges amid lingering school scandal

Support for Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government has dropped below 50% for the first time in more than a year as respondents expressed dissatisfaction with his response to allegations of preferential treatment toward a conservative educator.

The cabinet’s approval rating plunged to 49% in a weekend poll by Nikkei Inc. and TV Tokyo, down 7 percentage points from May and 11 points compared with April. The government’s disapproval rating climbed 6 points to 42% — the highest since October 2015.

 This marks the Abe cabinet’s most serious setback in public opinion since that year, when legislation expanding the armed forces’ remit ignited a public debate on Japan’s commitment to peace.

Now, the prime minister is facing allegations of favoritism over plans to establish a veterinary school in a government-designated special zone for deregulation. The prospective school operator, Kake Educational Institution, is headed by a friend of Abe’s.

The government insists that all of the proper procedures were followed in approving the new school. But a purported memo describing the project as in line with “the prime minister’s wishes” — a document whose credibility the government had questioned — has been found at the ministry of education after a second internal investigation.

The ruling coalition’s move to cut short the upper house debate on anti-conspiracy legislation also seems to have contributed to the drop in support. Among other things, the recently enacted law makes it a crime to plot terrorist attacks. Nearly half, or 47%, of respondents support the law, which has raised concerns among civil liberties groups, while 36% are opposed.

The cabinet’s approval rating fell among both men and women. Only 24% of respondents unaffiliated with any political party expressed support for the government, down 5 points from the previous survey.

LDP passes rule change that could see Abe remain PM until 2021

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party decided Sunday to extend its term limit on party leaders, potentially allowing Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to remain in his role until September 2021.

Abe’s tenure as president of the LDP was set to run out in September next year before the rule change, which would have meant stepping down as prime minister even if the LDP was still in power.

 The party, holding its annual convention at a Tokyo hotel, approved extending the limit to three consecutive three-year terms from the previous two consecutive three-year terms.

This means Abe can stand for re-election in the next party leadership vote in the fall of next year.

Abe, 62, served as prime minister for around a year before resigning in September 2007. He became prime minister again when the LDP returned to power in December 2012 after a three-year period in opposition.

Abe could call election in January, rumors say

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is said to be mulling dissolving Japan’s lower house when the Diet convenes in January, seeking popular approval of territorial talks with Russia and a better chance at extending his term as party leader.

“I don’t know what the prime minister’s going to do, but a dissolution in January is possible — be prepared,” Finance Minister Taro Aso told junior lawmakers in his faction of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party in August. The minister reportedly urged Abe to take this course just ahead of the July upper-house election.

 The Diet will be called into session in early January. Dissolving the lower house then would likely result in an election in late February. This could work to the LDP’s advantage: The leading opposition Democratic Party chose a new leader Thursday, and could be unprepared for an election early next year, an official in the ruling party said.

Calling an election would also be of symbolic importance for the Abe government. The prime minister this month expressed high hopes for a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Japan planned for December — a prime opportunity to settle a longstanding territorial dispute over Russian-administered islands just north of Hokkaido.

Japan-Extraordinary Diet session to be convened Sept. 26: LDP official

An extraordinary session of Japan’s Diet is set to be convened Sept. 26 following an agreement between the government and the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, a top party official said Tuesday.

Speaking to reporters at party headquarters in Tokyo, LDP Secretary General Toshihiro Nikai said the party has settled on the date with the office of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

 The extra session follows the LDP’s strong showing in July’s House of Councillors election on a platform of stepped-up economic policy. The election brought Abe’s goal of amending the Japanese Constitution closer after pro-amendment lawmakers achieved a supermajority legally required to kick-start the process.

The start date for the session has been fixed out of consideration for the main opposition Democratic Party, which will hold a leadership election Sept. 15.

According to a senior LDP member, Abe had suggested to the LDP a start date of Sept. 13 or 16 in order to make time to introduce a bill to ratify the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact.

Abe’s stimulus plan experiencing headline inflation of its own

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government is putting pressure on the fiscally conservative Ministry of Finance to satisfy expectations for a bold new shot of the first arrow of Abenomics — fiscal spending.

But critics say that the contents of the stimulus package matter more than its apparent size, which is easy to inflate. Some observers now see the tally rising to between 20 trillion yen and 30 trillion yen ($189 billion and $283 billion) after off-budget items are counted. 

 The chairman of business lobby Keidanren, Sadayuki Sakakibara, is among those urging “large-scale” on-budget expenditures, he told an audience in Nagano Prefecture on Thursday.

The trial balloon floated by the Finance Ministry missed expectations. There had been talk in the financial markets and elsewhere that general-account budget items alone — known as mamizu, or “fresh water,” in Japanese government jargon — would amount to 5 trillion yen to 10 trillion yen. Then came the revelation that flagging tax revenue growth and other constraints would leave less than 1 trillion yen available for stimulus.

Election win puts Japan’s ruling parties on cusp of changing constitution

The ruling coalition will retain its upper house majority in Sunday’s election, with the focus shifting to how close Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and parties backing his goal of revising the constitution can get to the two-thirds supermajority needed to start the process.

The polls closed at 8 p.m. As of 9 p.m., 44 candidates battling in electoral districts had been declared winners.

 

Liberal Democratic Party Vice President Masahiko Komura, left, and Secretary-General Sadakazu Tanigaki speak to reporters about the election results. 

The ruling coalition apparently met Abe’s stated goal of securing a majority of the 121 contested seats, with the Liberal Democratic Party and junior partner Komeito likely taking at least 61 together.

“We will realize our target of 61 seats,” said Toshimitsu Motegi, who heads the LDP’s election strategy commission, in a television appearance Sunday evening.

“At the current rate, our party could even win the 57 seats needed to secure a majority on our own for the first time in 27 years,” Motegi said.

Komeito aims to win at least 13 seats for electoral districts and proportional representation combined.

Japanese lawmakers demand action to counter yen’s surge

Bracing for prolonged market turbulence triggered by Brexit, Japan’s ruling coalition lawmakers are calling on the government and central bank to intervene in the currency market to tame the yen’s ascendance.

Stock prices tanked around the world while the Japanese currency skyrocketed Friday as spooked investors sought a safe haven. “Rapid [currency] movements driven by speculators are profoundly harmful,” Tomomi Inada, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s policy chief, told an NHK program Sunday. “Necessary measures, including market intervention, should be taken without hesitation,” she added, signaling the government’s willingness to act.

 LDP Secretary-General Sadakazu Tanigaki echoed her sentiment. “The Bank of Japan and the government must communicate well to show that they will take decisive action to counter odd, speculative and volatile movements.”

“By maintaining market liquidity through currency swap agreements among central banks, we will do everything we can,” said Noritoshi Ishida, the policy chief of junior coalition partner Komeito.

Lawmakers also see the need for robust economic stimulus. Currently, the government and the ruling coalition are planning to put together a spending package of 5 trillion yen to 10 trillion yen ($48.9 billion to $97.8 billion) in the fall, but the price tag is likely to grow higher. 

Abenomics End Game: Thousands Protest In Downtown Tokyo, Demand Abe’s Resignation As PM Disapproval Soars

Considering that Shinzo Abe’s first reign as prime minister of Japan lasted precisely one year from September 26, 2006 until September 26 of the following year, when he voluntarily resigned due to diarrhea, the fact that he has managed to stay in power for nearly 3 years since ascending to power for the second time in December 2012 and unleashing the currency-crushing and market-surging policy of unprecedented debt and deficit monetization known as “Abenomics” is quite impressive.

It also confirms that as long as the stock market keeps going higher politicians have nothing to fear even if it means a total collapse in living standards for the rest of the population.

Yet even with the Nikkei pushing on 18 years highs, it appears that Abe may have reached his rigged market rating benefit cap, because even as the Nikkei was soaring, Abe’s approval rating was plunging.

As we reported a month ago, “Abe Cabinet’s approval rating plunged to 39%, matching a record low, as more than half of voters oppose the new US-sanctioned military/security legislation being debated in the Diet…. As his popularity has waned, Abe has become more and more desperate to keep support and has, for the first time in 70- years, lower the minimum voting age from 21 to 18.”

Radioactive Drone Discovered On Roof Of Japanese PM’s Office

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe awoke on Wednesday to find a half-meter-wide drone, contaminated with trace levels of radioactive cesium, on the roof of his office in Tokyo. Of course this is nothing new for Washington where a drone crash-landed on The White House lawn in January and Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said that Japan is looking to tighten laws governing drones (ahead of next year’s G7-summit and the 2020 Olympics). Of course, the police have explained cesium isn’t harmful to humans (though we suspect they aren’t stupid enough to drink it)

Islamic State Reportedly Executes One Japanese Hostage as Deadline Passes

A masked person holding a knife speaks as he stands in between two kneeling men in this still image taken from an online video released by the militant Islamic State group on January 20, 2015

The Islamic State has reportedly beheaded one Japanese hostage and offered a swap for the other who is still in their hands, according to media reports.

Japanese government is still verifying the execution video. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the recording appeared to show captive Haruna Yukawa being killed.

“This is an outrageous and unacceptable act,” Suga said. “We strongly demand the prompt release of the remaining Mr. Kenji Goto, without harm.”

On Tuesday, Islamists threatened to execute the hostages in three days’ time, unless Japan pays them a ransom of $200 million. This sum matches the amount of money promised by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as a nonlethal aid package to countries fighting the IS group.

Reports transpired in the Japanese media on Thursday that Abe had said Japan would not pay ransoms to terrorists, in a phone conversation with UK Prime Minister David Cameron. Abe also said earlier his country would not give up its plans to assist the fight against IS.