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Rule Change Allows Japan Premier to Seek 3rd Term

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (C) celebrates with lawmakers and members at the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s annual convention at a hotel in Tokyo, on March 5.Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (C) celebrates with lawmakers and members at the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s annual convention at a hotel in Tokyo, on March 5.

Japan’s ruling party approved a change in party rules on Sunday which could pave the way for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to become the country’s longest-serving leader in the post-World War II era.

It is a remarkable turnaround for Abe, who lasted only a year during an earlier stint as prime minister, and in a country that had six prime ministers in the six years before Abe returned to office in December 2012, AP reported.

Analysts believe Japan’s 62-year-old leader learned from his first term in office, when he focused on divisive issues such as constitutional revision and patriotic education that contributed to his early downfall. This time, he has made an expansionary economic policy with a catchy name, “Abenomics,” front and center at election time.

“The interesting thing is that formerly, Abe did not seem to be interested in economic policy,” said Yu Uchiyama, a professor of politics at Tokyo University.

He said that Abe, a conservative, had been more interested in things like constitutional change.

“But right after he got power for the second time, he did not put forth such a rightwing agenda. Instead he introduced and emphasized the economic issue,” he said.

That doesn’t mean Abe has given up on goals such as revising the constitution, which was drafted by a US-led occupation force after World War II. However, Abe needs to win over a reluctant public—any amendment requires approval by two-thirds of the legislature and a national referendum—and that will take time.

“The constitution represents the shape of our country and it should describe Japan’s ideal future,” Abe told the annual convention of his Liberal Democratic Party.

He said the LDP will take the lead in promoting discussion over details of a revision.

The party on Sunday rubber-stamped a decision by its leaders last fall to allow the head of the party to run for a third three-year term, rather than be limited to two.

In Japan’s parliamentary system, the ruling party leader generally becomes the prime minister. The change would allow Abe to stay until 2021, if he can maintain the support of his party and voters, rather than step down in September 2018.

 

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