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Thursday, Sept. 21, 2006
WHAT'S IN STORE FOR JAPAN?
Public gives mixed reactions to Abe's win
By JUN HONGO
The Liberal Democratic Party may have voted strongly in favor of Shinzo Abe as its new president, but opinion on the street was clearly divided between those excited by his victory and those concerned about his future as prime minister.
Mitsuaki Umeda, 77, was glad Abe won the vote and expects him to bring back something he says has been missing from Japanese politics -- autonomy.
"Abe knows what he wants, in contrast with Prime Minister (Junichiro) Koizumi or (Democratic Party of Japan President) Ichiro Ozawa. I don't understand why the media consider him hawkish," Umeda said.
Eini Okubo, 72, also backed Abe, saying the new leader has "more common sense then Koizumi" and that he will be able to build a strong country that is not influenced by other countries.
Mitsuko Kudo, a 53-year-old housewife, had mixed opinions.
"To be honest I wasn't interested in any of the three candidates, but Abe was probably the best choice because he can continue on the same path of the reforms Prime Minister Koizumi started," Kudo said.
She said Abe's overwhelming popularity stemmed a lot from his relatively good looks and that she was concerned about Abe leading the ruling party because he "lacks experience as a politician."
Toshihiro Furuya, a 21-year-old student, said he expected Abe to win easily because he is a "thoroughbred" from a powerful political family that includes his grandfather, former Prime Minister Nobuskuke Kishi, and his father, Shintaro Abe, who served as foreign minister.
However, Furuya was not so positive about Abe's ability to lead the nation.
"From what I've heard on the news, the guy has many controversial ideas about amending the law and other issues," he said. "I don't think Japan will become a better country under him."
Furuya thought Foreign Minister Taro Aso did extremely well during the campaign, saying he seemed the most confident when debating.
A 33-year-old engineer from the U.S. who would only give his first name, Scott, described Abe as "conservative and sort of rightwing."
He said he thought Abe won the LDP contest because he had the backing of Koizumi -- although he said, "Koizumi had much more charisma than Abe does."
Most people on the street had the same reaction to Abe's win as Kae Sumita. The 35-year-old housewife admitted she did not know much about the two losing candidates and that Abe was the best looking of the three candidates.
"I do hope that the new guy will make Japan a better country, though," Sumita said.
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