Anticipating Abe’s next step

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Anticipating Abe’s next step

As widely expected, the Liberal Democratic Party-Komeito ruling coalition led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe won Sunday’s upper house election in Japan. Mr. Abe has set a solid foundation for stable governance until the next general election in 2016 with a comfortable win in this election tantamount to an interim evaluation of his cabinet.

As Mr. Abe won more than half the seats of the upper house along with more than two-thirds of lower house seats in the elections held in December, he has acquired the political resources to pursue his policies. Nevertheless, it would be an arrogant delusion if he thinks the results of the two elections amount to a blank cheque.

There is general agreement that the biggest reason for his victory stems from great expectations for Abenomics. After taking office, Abe’s cabinet has put everything it can into boosting the economy by unlimited quantitative easing of monetary input.

Although some questions still linger regarding the eventual outcome of the prime minister’s signature economic policy, Abenomics has certainly played a role in refreshing a social atmosphere that had been depressed during the “lost two decades.” It is reasonable to understand how voters’ expectations for economic recovery led to support for Abe in yesterday’s balloting.

Before this election, Abe has emphasized the necessity of revising the Constitution. He argued for transforming Japan into a country that can have a military and make war by revising the pacific Constitution.

In order to do this, he plans to loosen a certain clause in the Constitution so that revision can begin with a concurring vote of a simple majority of the members of each house of the Diet, instead of the two-thirds or more as required now. But as far as the revision of the Constitution is concerned, there is widespread disagreement. For example, First Liberal Democratic Party coalition partner Komeito is opposed to it. It is a matter to be dealt with most prudently after thorough reflection on public opinion.

If Abe’s cabinet keeps turning to the right in pursuing its policies, encouraged by the result of this election, it is highly likely that it will run into public criticism soon. The international isolation of Japan also would deepen.

Neighboring countries, including South Korea, will watch closely to see whether Abe will pay his respects at the Yasukuni Shrine before Aug. 15, the anniversary of the end of World War II. It is politically wise to use discretion after winning the elections even if impractical pledges were made for the sake of victory.

We hope Abe first ponders how to solve his country’s hopelessly tangled relations with Korea and China.
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