Abe’s Japan: Navigating Challenges, Shaping Progress

OV Digital Desk

Shinzo Abe (21 September 1954 – 8 July 2022) was a Japanese politician who served as Prime Minister of Japan and President of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) from 2006 to 2007 and again from 2012 to 2020. He was the longest-serving prime minister in Japanese history.

Life and Career

He was born on 21 September 1954, in Tokyo, Japan. He went to Seikei Elementary School and Seikei Junior and Senior High School. Then he studied public administration at Seikei University and graduated in 1977 with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science. Upon graduating from Seikei University, Abe moved to the US to study political science at the University of Southern California. He went back to Japan in 1979 and joined Kōbe Steel, Ltd.

Later, he joined the Liberal-Democratic Party (LDP), and in 1982, he became Shintaro Abe’s secretary and Japan’s foreign minister.  He was elected to the lower house of the Diet (parliament) in 1993 and later held a bunch of government jobs. He gained a lot of support for his tough stance toward North Korea, especially after that country revealed in 2002 that it had kidnapped 13 Japanese citizens in the 1970s and ’80s. In 2003, Abe became LDP secretary general.

Junichiro Koizumi was forced to step down as prime minister and LDP leader in 2006 due to term limits, and Abe succeeded him in both posts. Abe became the country’s first prime minister to have been born after World War II and its youngest since the war. Abe aimed to strengthen ties with America and pursue an assertive foreign policy. In response to North Korea’s nuclear test, Abe supported UN sanctions against the country, and he imposed sanctions unilaterally, including a ban on North Korean ships visiting Japanese ports.

He promised to revise the country’s postwar constitution. He also promised to improve the country’s pension and health insurance systems. His government got embroiled in a bunch of financial scandals and public gaffes, though. As well, the administration got criticized for its slow response to the discovery that millions of pension records had been mishandled for a decade. The LDP lost its upper house majority to a coalition led by the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) in July 2007, and Abe resigned in September. He was succeeded by Yasuo Fukuda.

Second Term

He stayed in the lower house of the Diet but stayed quiet politically after the DPJ-led coalition took over the government in 2009. Then, in September 2012, he was again elected LDP leader. In one of his first acts, he visited the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, a memorial to Japan’s war dead, including those convicted of war crimes during World War II. On 16 December 2012, the LDP won a landslide victory in lower-house elections. As expected, the new LDP majority in the chamber unanimously approved Abe as prime minister on 26 December. He replaced the DPJ’s Yoshihiko Noda, who resigned from office that day.

Abe rolled out an ambitious economic plan to boost the long-moribund Japanese economy and speed up recovery in the northeastern Honshu region devastated by the 2011 tsunami and earthquake. When the LDP and its allies won enough seats in the July 2013 upper house elections, the Abe government got a major boost.

He became the longest-serving prime minister in Japan in November 2019 when he overtook Kushaku Katsura Taro. Abe resigned as prime minister in August 2020 after the recurrence of ulcerative colitis, but he stayed on in a caretaker capacity until a successor was named. On September 14, 2020, Yoshihide Suga, Abe’s chief cabinet secretary, was elected to lead the LDP, and he became Prime Minister.

On 8 July 2022, Abe was assassinated while giving a speech. According to the police, a 41-year-old man was arrested with a homemade gun at the scene. Some news outlets say the assailant was angry his mom went bankrupt after donating to a religious group affiliated with Abe.

Award and Legacy

In 2021, he was awarded the Padma Vibhushan, India’s second highest civilian award.

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