Japan Elections: Abe Victory A Sign of Moderate and Responsible Government, Says Bowdoin’s Laurence

Shinzo Abe

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s recent electoral victory is unlikely to mean any radical changes to Japan’s foreign policy, writes Associate Professor of Government and Asian Studies Henry Laurence in the Maine Sunday Telegram. That’s despite Abe’s pledge to revise the country’s pacifist constitution,

Although Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party picked up just 36 percent of the vote, said Laurence, thanks to the support of its coalition partner, it controls just over two-thirds of parliamentary seats—”the threshold needed to pass constitutional amendments.”

Many observers regard this as significant, said Laurence, given that Abe “has pledged to revise Japan’s pacifist constitution, Article 9 of which forbids the use of military force.” However, he continued, “the proposed amendment is almost comically tepid, simply recognizing the constitutionality of the Self Defense Force, Japan’s already sizable military.”

Even if the measure does make it through the Japanese parliament, Laurence said it’s unlikely to become law, as this would still require the support of a national referendum. “With a majority of voters still supporting Article 9, that’s unlikely.”

The most striking aspect of the election to American eyes though, might be what Laurence called “the complete lack of angry populism: There were no Japanese equivalents of Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders.”

“Why the absence of rancor?” asks Laurence. “Chief among many reasons, ” he said, “is simply good governance: Japan’s political establishment has succeeded in providing a solid measure of prosperity and security to most of the population.”

Read Henry Laurence in the Maine Sunday Telegram.

 

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