Former PM given second chance to reinvigorate Japan

The Liberal Democratic Party’s victory in Japan’s parliamentary election yesterday ensures Shinzo Abe, who resigned as prime minister for health reasons in 2007 after a year in office, will get a second chance to try to lead Japan out of its economic slump.

In Abe’s political resurrection, the Japanese have revealed hopes for a national comeback, backing Liberal Democrat pledges to restore the good times of the 1980s and 1990s, before the financial bubble burst and the economy slid into a 20-year funk.

Abe epitomises the LD brand of conservatism and nationalism that kept the party in power following the Second World War, until it was ousted by the Democratic Party of Japan in 2009.

Despite his tough talk, it is unclear just how determined or able Abe will be to pursue his nationalist convictions, which could further worsen already testy relations with China, hurting automakers and other industries with huge investments in the fast-growing Chinese market.

“We are not sure what Abe will turn out to be like,” said Yoichi Funabashi, former editor of Asahi newspaper. “Once he gets into office, he will likely retreat a bit.”

Under Abe, the Liberal Democrats claim to have been reborn, though their platform differs little from strategies of the past, calling for a restoration of Japan’s economic strength through public works spending, greater emphasis on patriotism, and a more nationalist foreign policy.

“We have reflected deeply over these three years,” Abe told a crowd of several hundred mostly middle-aged supporters outside a train station in Wako, northwest Tokyo, on a final day of campaigning on Saturday.


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