written BY: SOPHIE BOULTER, guest writer
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, 65, resigned on Aug. 24 citing ill health.
Abe led Japan for eight years, the longest consecutive run of any Japanese prime minister.
Abe had been the leader of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and the Prime Minister of Japan since 2012. He resigned amidst pandemic response issues, undelivered reforms to Japan’s constitution and uncertainty regarding the 2020 Olympic Games.
Though Abe’s approval rating currently stands at 34% according to The Economist, he led his party to large majorities in the legislature in 2012, 2014 and 2017.
Prior to his premiership in 2012, Japan had six prime ministers that lasted approximately a year each — including Abe in 2007.
Abe has ulcerative colitis, a condition that caused him to step down in 2007. Upon his return to politics in 2012, he had the condition under control.
The condition resurged and worsened this year, causing Abe to go to the hospital twice last week. His term as prime minister was supposed to end in September of next year.
During his tenure as prime minister, Abe led Japan through several disasters, including a tsunami, earthquake and nuclear meltdown. He also strengthened Japan’s relationships with the United States, Southeast Asia and Europe.
Abe forged a particularly strong relationship with President Donald Trump ,with whom he would regularly golf.
According to White House spokesperson Judd Deere, Trump said that U.S.-Japanese relations were stronger than ever, and that Abe had done a “fantastic job.”
Abe spearheaded initiatives to revamp the ailing Japanese economy, which is the third-largest in the world. His economic initiatives are known as “Abenomics.”
To counter the rapidly aging population, he supported free child-care policies that brought more women into the workforce. To fight deflation, he increased welfare spending and reformed monetary policy.
Abe also cut tariffs, increased immigration and was a strong supporter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
In his resignation speech, Abe expressed regret for not amending Japan’s constitution. Drafted after World War II, the constitution is explicitly pacifist.
Citing threats from China and North Korea, Abe increased military spending and believed that the Japanese Constitution should acknowledge the role of Japan’s military.
According to the Washington Post, amending the Japanese Constitution in favor of the increased role of the military has only “lukewarm” public support.
Abe also lamented that he was unable to secure a peace treaty with Russia regarding disputed territory or the release of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea.
“It is really with a very heavy heart that I am resigning without being able to attain those things,” Abe said..
Abe drew criticism for a slow response to the COVID-19 pandemic. He was reluctant to postpone the 2020 Olympic Games, which were scheduled to take place in Tokyo in July.
Eventually, Abe announced that the Olympic Games would be delayed for a year.
“[Japan] must fulfill our responsibility as the host country of the Olympics,” Abe reiterated.
Abe’s successor will be chosen on Sept. 14 by LDP members of the Japanese legislature.