2020: Abe Shinzo and Japan’s One-Strong State

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The Asia-Pacific Journal | Japan Focus Volume 18 | Issue 7 | Number 4 | Article ID 5388 | Apr 01, 2020

Abe Shinzo and Japan’s One-Strong (Ikkyo) State

Gavan McCormack

"One Strong

Abe Shinzo has exercised extraordinary 
influence over the Japanese state. On 20 November 2019, as he passed his 2,587th day in office (over eight years) he became modern Japan’s longest-serving Prime Minister. But what are the sources of this longevity and what will be the consequences for Japan and the Asia-Pacific? Probably few, even among his close supporters, suggest that he has been exceptionally popular. His parliamentary dominance rests on a combination of political apathy, absence of credible opposition, and a well-funded political party machine honed by more than half a century of Cold War and post-Cold War parliamentary dominance. From a narrow electoral base, during his second term of office that followed the general election of December 2012, Abe moved to concentrate an unprecedented measure of control over the levers of state, nominating his close associates to special policy advisory committees and to head the Cabinet Legislative Bureau, the National Security Council, the Bank of Japan, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and the national broadcaster (NHK). He also paid close attention to the cultivation of the major national media groups. In October 2017 the support of just 17.9 per cent of eligible voters (48.2% of the vote) in the small seat electorate division was sufficient to secure the Abe camp 61.1% of the parliamentary seats. In September 2018 Abe extended his party leadership position to three terms (nine years from 2012) and so anticipated steering the country through the 2020 Olympic Games and beyond to the adoption of a new constitution before retiring in glory late in 2021. Coronavirus upset that design by causing the Olympics to be held over for at least a year, but early signs were that Abe would turn that delay to his political purposes. ..."

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