Signs for Shinzo Abe’s comeback?
The author is a Tokyo correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.
“I took new drugs, and treatment went well,” said former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in a YouTube video on April 27. He resigned from office in September 2020 due to ulcerative colitis, and he said he got better after trying the new treatment.
Late last year, a veteran Japanese businessman showed me a photo of him with Abe. It was taken at a golf course, and Abe was squatting with a golf club in his hand, smiling brightly. How can someone suffering from ulcerative colitis and frequent diarrhea squat? The businessman said Abe was healthy and well.
Abe is again getting politically active. He attends various political events and frequently appears on YouTube and television to speak up.
He has taken up many positions, from an honorary advisor to the group pushing for constitutional revision and honorary advisor for Tokyo Olympics to advisor to the conservative unity group of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).
Since last month, Abe has started lecturing to young representatives of the LDP serving less than three terms on how to win an election. Abe helped 119 new representatives win in the 2012 House election. Under Abe’s umbrella, the “Abe kids” successfully won three consecutive terms and have never engaged in a challenging election campaign. He has led six election victories in office and is the best teacher.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga does not have that aura. After the LDP lost in Hiroshima, its traditional stronghold, at the April by-elections, his supporter group began to crack.
The public opinion also has cooled down. Fourty-seven percent of the people support the Suga cabinet, but only 4 percent want him to continue as prime minister, according to a Nikkei poll on April 26. They complain how the government is being swayed by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) when the Covid-19 situation hasn’t improved. Even Tokyo Shimbun, arguably the most active in criticizing the government, lamented how they came to miss the time of Abe after he as prime minister persuaded the IOC to postpone the Olympics by one year.
It is no coincidence that a rumor of Abe’s second return is spreading. If he returns to the biggest Hosoda faction, it is not impossible that Abe becomes the prime minister again.
Conscious of the rumor, Abe rejected the possibility and said that Suga should be re-elected in the next prime minister election. But as he clears the way for Suga, that only reaffirmed Abe’s influence. Even if the rumor of Abe’s second return doesn’t come true, Abe’s shadow will surely be longer and darker.