Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was his country’s longest-serving PM. As one of the country’s most influential politicians Abe shaped Japan and leaves behind a complex legacy. He was perhaps best known for his “Abenomics” reforms that were meant to shake Japan out of its decades-long stagnation, as well as his quest to revise Japan’s pacifist constitution.
The scion of a distinguished political family, it is perhaps not surprising that he would ascend to these heights. But Abe was never interested in power for its own sake. Entering politics in the 1990s, he inherited a mission from his grandfather and former Japanese Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi: to remove the constraints imposed by the United States—with the help, partly, of the Japanese political class—on Japan’s ability to exercise power on the world stage, particularly its postwar constitution and “peace” clause that restricted Japan’s military power.
During his tenure Abe’s underlying agenda was to escape what he called the post-war regime, a legacy of US occupation that conservatives argue deprived Japan of national pride.
Reforming the education system to restore traditional mores was another of his goals.
He also adopted a less apologetic stance towards Japan’s World War II actions, saying future generations should not have to keep apologizing for the mistakes of the past.
Abe also spent much of his political career trying to move Japan into a role on the world stage — a position that won him nationalist fans at home but at times alarmed others, domestically and abroad.
The Tokyo native who served as prime minister from 2006 to 2007 and again from 2012 until 2020 -after a record-setting seven years and eight months as prime minister resigned in September of that year without achieving his long-held goal of revising the constitution but remained a dominant presence over the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), controlling its major faction.
He cultivated stronger ties with Washington and maintained a personal relationship with President Donald Trump.
Abe in 2020 began the third act of his career, where his leadership of the LDP’s largest faction and his reputation as a leading global statesman gave him extraordinary power to influence the direction of the Japanese government.
When he first took office at age 52, Abe was Japan’s youngest prime minister since World War II. Entering politics in the 1990s -after winning a seat in parliament in 1993 after his father’s death, Abe rose to national prominence. He inherited a mission from his grandfather and former Japanese PM Kishi: to remove the constraints imposed by the United States on Japan’s ability to exercise power on the world stage.
When it came to many policies, his grandfather, the late former prime minister Nobusuke Kishi, seems to have mattered most.
Kishi was a wartime cabinet minister imprisoned but never tried as a war criminal after World War II. He served as prime minister from 1957 to 1960, resigning due to public furor over a renegotiated US-Japan security pact.
He thus stood at the pinnacle of power in Japan and recognition in the region when, on July 8, he was felled by two blasts from an assassin’s improvised shotgun while campaigning for LDP candidates ahead of upper house elections on July 10.
Abe was 67. (It’s a) “Tragic end of a nationalist leader!,” an Asia Pacific-based analyst and author of several books said.
Sourced from Foreign Policy, UPI, AAP -with additional inputs.