Today marks the return of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) to power, as Shinzo Abe is officially confirmed as Japan’s newest Prime Minister. Mr. Abe faces many challenges, including dealing with the deflation that’s kept the Japanese economy stagnant, developing a workable energy policy and managing delicate relationships with South Korea and China. Though Mr. Abe received good marks on foreign policy issues when he was Prime Minister in 2006-2007, avoiding inflammatory visits to Yasukini Shrine (a Buddhist temple where the souls of Japanese war criminals are interred), this time he’s been specifically elected as a “hawk” who will defend Japan’s territory from encroachment by China. The LDP is a conservative pro-business party, and is taking action to help Japanese companies like Sony and Panasonic, whose exports made Japan famous before the companies fell on hard times over the past four years. He’s also embracing the Japan Business Federation (Keidanren), a group of business leaders who have advised Japan’s governments in a semiofficial capacity since 1946 but who were given the cold shoulder by the last ruling party. While there’s a lot of cynicism by foreigners in Japan, who joke about forming a betting pool to guess how long Mr. Abe will last this time around and what his official reason will be when he quits this time (in 2007 it was because of “poor health”), I am hopeful that better economic news is in store for Japan in the coming months.
Prime Minister Abe gets another chance as PM. Don’t screw it up!