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Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012
'Changed' Abe makes case for fresh chance
By MASAMI ITO
In an article published Monday in the monthly Bungei Shunju magazine, Liberal Democratic Party President Shinzo Abe apologized for abandoning the prime ministership a year into his term in 2007 but insisted he is a changed man and deserving of another chance.
Abe, who would likely become next prime minister if the LDP wins the Dec. 16 general election, quit abruptly five years ago amid a series of scandals involving his Cabinet ministers, a plummeting support rate and health reasons.
With the possible exception of Yoshihiko Noda, every prime minister since has departed about a year after taking office.
Abe conceded in his article that most of his close allies opposed his decision to run in the LDP presidential race in September. But he defended his decision, saying he couldn't wait because "Japan's future was being threatened" by pressure from neighboring countries over territorial disputes and the stagnant economy.
"I am a person who has experienced failure as a politician and it is because I am such a person that I am ready to give everything for Japan," Abe wrote.
In his 10-page article, Abe expressed confidence that he and the LDP would govern Japan once again. Among the policies he said he would implement "once we seize government power," were "hammering out" a policy deal with the Bank of Japan to set an inflation target and raise spending for public works.
Abe was highly critical of the Democratic Party of Japan, which has been in power since finally ousting the LDP three years ago. The visits by then Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to one of four Russia-held islands and by South Korean President Lee Myung Bak to Takeshima, which South Korea controls as Dokdo, were examples of the DPJ's "diplomatic failure," Abe wrote of the territorial disputes.
Ties with China have also deteriorated since Japan's purchase of the disputed Senkaku Islands.
"None of this ever would have happened under LDP rule," Abe claimed.
The hawkish LDP president also reiterated his determination to revise the war-renouncing Constitution to establish a "National Defense Force" — without spelling out what the new army would actually do — and asserted Japan's right to collective self-defense, which is prohibited under the government's current interpretation of the charter.
But Abe failed to answer the key question he began his article with: "Has the LDP changed?" After over half a century of nearly uninterrupted rule, the center-right party was finally sent packing amid the weight of scandals in the 2009 general election.
Political observers answer Abe's question by saying the LDP hasn't. Its current resurgence, they say, has more to do with the public's dissatisfaction with the DPJ than anything else.
Unsurprisingly, this view is not shared by the LDP, which couches its comeback in grander terms.
"The LDP's slogan for this general election is to win back Japan," Abe writes. "This is not just about winning Japan back from the DPJ-led government. If I dare say, it is a war to return Japan to the hands of its people."