Abe Shinzō matched Katsura Tarō on November 19, 2019, as Japan’s longest-serving prime minister. If Prime Minister Abe holds the post of president of the Liberal Democratic Party until his term expires on September 30, 2021, he will have served as prime minister for a total of more than 3,500 days. Abe, 65, who served his first term for just one year before quitting in 2007, made a comeback in December 2012, promising a stronger military and a revamped economy while aiming to revise Japan’s post-war, pacifist constitution.
Pointing to such challenges as Japan’s ageing population and constitutional revision – a divisive topic – Abe vowed to push ahead in the last two years of his term as Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) leader, which ends in September 2021.
“I want to tackle policy issues with my heart and soul, with a sense of treading on thin ice and staying on my toes, not forgetting the spirit with which I began,” Abe told reporters.
“In 2007, I thought there was no way Mr Abe would ever become prime minister again,” said Takao Toshikawa, editor of the political newsletter. Not only was Mr Abe’s first term a failure but he was sick with debilitating ulcerative colitis. Strikingly, Mr Abe has overcome his country’s pattern of revolving door premierships as well as the failure of his own first term to give Japan a long period of political stability, even as populist insurgencies have rocked other leading democracies. Since 1989, Japan has had 17 changes of prime minister.
A Nov. 16-17 Asahi newspaper poll showed 68% weren’t convinced by his explanations, though support was steady at 44%. Concerns the economy is headed for recession also cloud Abe’s future. Japan’s exports tumbled at their quickest pace in three years in October amid weakening demand from the United States and China.