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Shinzo Abe, Japan’s most influential samurai since World War II

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After becoming longest serving Japanese prime minister in office and leave power in 2020, Shinzo Abe remained the most influential politician in the country until today, the day on which an attack has ended his life.

Abe, 67, was the mentor of Japan’s current Prime Minister Fumkio Kishida, who has upheld the main pillars of his predecessor’s political strategy since he came to power in October last year.

Despite his withdrawal from the front page, the charisma of the “hawk” Abe and his frequent pronouncements on thorny issues such as the reform of the pacifist constitution Japanese or tensions with China they continued to define the agenda of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), in contrast to Kishida’s more moderate tone.

the former president He no longer held any high official position in the Government or in his party, although he kept his parliamentary seat, he led the main faction within the PLD and, according to political gossips, pulled the strings of the conservative formation at will.

In recent months, he has once again made headlines and put his “protege” Kishida in trouble with statements in which he pointed to a Japanese military intervention in the event of a Chinese invasion of Taiwanor in which he was in favor of Japan harboring nuclear weapons from the United States.

And it is that Abe left the head of the Japanese Government without having been able to achieve his political priority, that of expand national defense powersfor which a constitutional reform would be necessary, which until now has not had sufficient political or citizen support.

This possible reform is in fact one of the key issues in the by-elections for the Upper House of the Japanese Parliament that are being held this Sunday.

Abe, despite his failing health – he retired in 2020 due to a stomach illness and already left a brief previous term in 2007 for similar reasons – got involved in the campaign by participating in rallies across the country, trying to to put his pull among the most conservative voters at the service of his party.

samurai clan

Born on September 21, 1954 in Tokyo, but raised in Yamaguchi prefecture, the region of southwestern Japan where the samurai clan from which his family descended, Abe had politics in his veins.

His maternal grandfather was the imperialist Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi.imprisoned for three years as a war criminal after World War II, although he was later exonerated and elected prime minister in 1957 and 1960. His father, Shintaro Abe, was foreign minister in the Yasuhiro Nakasone governments in the 1980s.

Another figure that marked his career was that of his great-uncle and Nobel Peace Prize winner Eisaku Sato one of the longest-lasting chief executives in the country (1964-1972), and whom Abe surpassed by chaining mandates between December 2012 and September 2020.

Graduated in Political Science in 1977 from Tokyo Seikei University, Abe completed his studies at the University of Southern California (USC) before joining the workforce in 1979 at Kobe Steel.

He started out as an adviser to his father.

Three years later he began to get involved in politics as an adviser to his father, who soon after would assume the Foreign Affairs portfolio, but it was not until 1993 when he got a deputy seat from the Liberal Democratic Party representing a district of his home prefecture, Yamaguchi.

This trajectory was consolidated in 2003 with his appointment as general secretary of the PLD, a position that he combined with that of Junichiro Koizumi’s Cabinet spokesman, whom he would succeed in 2006 as prime minister.

Just turned 52, Abe became Japan’s first chief executive born after World War II, although that first term would last just one year due to his aforementioned health problems.

international profile

His political legacy highlights the greater international profile that Japan acquired under his command, strengthening relations with the United States and the European Union and trying to improve ties with Moscowwith whom Tokyo maintains territorial disputes, although this rapprochement was cut short with the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

So was his turn to a heavy-handed policy with North Korea, with whose regime Tokyo had been relatively benevolent until it was confirmed in 2002 a Pyongyang plot to kidnap Japanese that Abe himself tried to solve as chief negotiator of the Japanese Government, or his association with Nippon Kaigi, Japan’s main ultra-conservative pressure group to which he so do Kishida and many of his party’s top politicians.

Abenomics

Another of his great milestones was “Abenomics”its economic strategy coordinated with the Japanese central bank designed to pull the world’s third-largest economy out of its long deflationary cycle based on substantial public spending and ultra-low interest rates, among other flexibility measures.

Although Kishida is committed to what he defines as “a new capitalism”, in practice his economic program is a carbon copy of “Abenomics”, which is currently being questioned more than ever due to accelerated inflation in Japan due to factors external and its ailing economy.

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