Japan PM Shinzo Abe hits milestone as post-WWII leader

Some observers said Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been able to maintain a long-running premiership because of the existence of "many weak opposition parties", as well as the absence of a potential successor within his party.
Some observers said Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been able to maintain a long-running premiership because of the existence of "many weak opposition parties", as well as the absence of a potential successor within his party.PHOTO: AP

He becomes Japan's longest-serving post-war premier, surpassing Eisaku Sato's 2,798 days

TOKYO • Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has become Japan's longest-serving prime minister since World War II, surpassing Mr Eisaku Sato's 2,798 days in office from 1964 to 1972.

Saturday was Mr Abe's 2,799th day as prime minister, including a year in power that ended in September 2007.

Mr Abe's term as president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) expires in September 2021.

He is likely to rank with the all-time record of 2,886 days in office, held by early 20th-century premier Taro Katsura, on Nov 19 this year.

Since making a comeback as prime minister in 2012, Mr Abe has remained in office for a long time, placing top priority on the economy under his administration.

Some observers said he has been able to maintain a long-running premiership because of the existence of "many weak opposition parties" that have failed to show any obvious points of contention, as well as the absence of a potential successor to Mr Abe within the LDP.

"The Prime Minister has been spearheading efforts for the people and the nation, which has been widely appreciated and led to a long-running administration," LDP secretary-general Toshihiro Nikai told reporters at the party's headquarters on Friday.

There has been talk within the party that Mr Abe could run for a fourth consecutive term as party president. Addressing the speculation, Mr Nikai said: "We will do our best to support the Prime Minister if he makes that decision."

Mr Abe's first Cabinet from September 2006 was marred by pension record-keeping blunders and scandals among his Cabinet members, which drove him from office after a year.

 
 
 
 

After the inauguration of his second Cabinet, the Prime Minister - who pledged to clean up his tarnished image - placed top priority on economic revitalisation.

Under the Abenomics economic policy package, which included a large-scale monetary easing policy, corporate earnings and the employment environment drastically improved. The Cabinet's approval rating remains high mainly because of Mr Abe's achievements in economic improvement, said a mid-ranking LDP member.

But Mr Yuichiro Tamaki, leader of the opposition Democratic Party for the People, disagreed, saying Mr Abe's achievements had been largely unremarkable.

"A prime minister who serves for a long time always produces some achievements. But nothing really comes to my mind when thinking about what (Mr Abe) has done," he told reporters on Friday.

But Japan's opposition parties have not shown a clear point of contention against the LDP, failing to form a united front over basic policies such as the Constitution and nuclear energy.

Although the Cabinet's approval rating hovered at a low level for a while in April last year amid accusations of cronyism and cover-ups, it has gradually recovered as the government secured high marks for its diplomacy and other policies.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 26, 2019, with the headline 'Abe hits milestone as post-WWII leader'. Print Edition | Subscribe