5 things to know about Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe

Shinzo Abe is the prime minister of Japan and president of the Liberal Democratic Party, which rules in coalition with the Komeito party. Here are five things to know about the “comeback kid” of Japanese politics.

He is set to become Japan’s longest-serving prime minister

Shinzo Abe has been prime minister since December 2012. He previously served as prime minister from 2006 to 2007, but resigned unexpectedly citing health issues. Abe’s victory in Japan’s upper house election in July put him on track to become the country’s longest-serving leader – if he can remain in power until mid-November, he will overtake the current record of 2,886 days set by Taro Katsura who served between 1901 and 1913.

He was Japan’s first prime minister born after World War II

Abe was born on September 21, 1954. He hails from a political family — his grandfather, Nobusuke Kishi, was Japan’s prime minister from 1957 to 1960, and his great uncle, Eisuke Sato, was prime minister from 1964 to 1972. His father, Shintaro Abe, was also a top politician, serving as foreign minister from 1982 to 1986. The young Abe worked as a secretary to his father during this time, accompanying him on diplomatic trips.

He has a set of economic policies named after him

“Abenomics” is the catchy nickname for Abe’s economic policy package which launched in 2013 with the aim of reviving Japan’s economy after more than two decades of deflation. In its early form, Abenomics was based on three “arrows” — aggressive monetary easing, fiscal stimulus, and structural reform. As part of the latter, Abe has made a big push for more women in the workforce, in a strategy which has been dubbed ‘womenomics’.

His long-held goal is to revise Japan’s post-war constitution

Throughout his political career, Abe has expressed his desire to revise the constitution, particularly the war-renouncing Article 9 which forbids Japan from maintaining military forces (though it has a powerful defensive military, the Japan Self-Defense Forces). However, in the July upper house election, Abe’s ruling coalition failed to win the supermajority necessary for proposing a constitutional amendment.

He has controversial views on history

Over the years Abe has been accused of championing a revisionist view of history, particularly in regards to Japan’s actions during World War II. Abe has pushed to have high school history textbooks rewritten, removing references to Japan’s wartime atrocities in favour of a more patriotic narrative. In 2013, Abe angered Beijing and Seoul by visiting the controversial Yasukuni Shrine which honours Japan’s war dead. In response to criticism, Abe has said he believes future generations of Japanese should not have to keep apologising for the past.

 - Asia Media Centre