Japanese politics in the era of the epidemic


With Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announcing today that he will not seek re-election as his party leader, COVID-19 has now dispatched two Japanese prime ministers in short order.

After presiding over the country’s longest-running post-war administration, Shinzo Abe quit suddenly One year ahead of schedule in August 2020. A new bout of illness prompted Abe to step down 13 years after his health briefly ended his premiership, but a failed pandemic response blighted his administration and ultimately redefined his political legacy: a modest economic expansion came to an abrupt halt. due to increased consumption tax and pandemic lockdowns; The Abe team floundered to deal with COVID-19 outbreak on Diamond Princess cruise ship in addition to delivering cash payments to help the public cope with the economic emergency in the early stages of the pandemic; Important international meetings, namely the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games and a state visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping, have been postponed. The legendary top-down leadership of the Abe administration has been affected by the virus.

When Abe quickly withdrew from office, leaders of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party rallied around Suga, his right-hand man and chief cabinet secretary, to serve the remainder of Abe’s term and guide Japan’s response to the coronavirus. The public longed for stability in turbulent times, and upon his rise to the position of Prime Minister, Suga enjoyed a wave of popular support (74% approval at its height). The comedy was a surprise, with support for Suga’s administration dwindling to about 30% in recent weeks, spurred by deep disappointment with his handling of the pandemic. The decision to go ahead with the 2020 Tokyo Olympics this summer Despite deep public concerns about hosting a potential superdistribution event, extended and largely ineffective emergency restrictions (calling for reduced working hours and the abolition of non-essential travel), and slow implementation of the vaccination campaign (47% of the population is now fully vaccinated) drained public confidence. The rapid increase in COVID-19 cases fueled by the delta variable and the increasing pressure on hospitals has led them to remove patients The Japanese population worried.

As a man who did not belong to a particular faction in the ruling party, Prime Minister Suga’s fate had largely depended on his ability to maintain his trust with the public. His failed response to the pandemic ended this lifeline. The party leadership and rank also lost confidence that Suga would assume his ultimate responsibility as party leader: winning the elections. This year, the LDP suffered several defeats in regional elections, but none more than losing the mayoral race in Yokohama, Suga’s political hometown. The stakes are even greater with the election of the next-term LDP president at the end of this month and a general election later this fall.

And so the knives came out. It became clear that Suga would not enter an uncontested party election, and the clash between political forces within the LDP intensified into an unchecked competition. The feud between would-be “king-makers”, General Secretary of the powerful Liberal Democratic Party Toshihiro Nikai and the Abe Aso Amari trio of two former Prime Ministers (Shinzo Abe and Taro Aso) and a former Minister of Economic Revitalization (Akira Amari), has spilled over into an open landscape. The speed of developments on Earth was astounding. Just three days ago, Suga float The idea of ​​calling a general election in mid-September before the LDP presidential race, just quickly Give up. he is Considered A cabinet reshuffle in major party and cabinet positions for the next week to make way for his candidacy, only surprisingly. announces his withdrawal From the race today. Suga’s weakness is now fully exposed because he could not exercise the powers of the Prime Minister in determining the timing and conduct of elections. Senior appointments.

The COVID-19 virus has injected liquidity into Japanese politics. The LDP presidential race has become a crowded field where many party heavyweights are likely to join the fray. The coming weeks will be full of political maneuvering over which candidate will win the party contest and how much influence the opposition can have on the LDP’s large majority in Parliament. But the birth of Japanese politics opens more fundamental questions about Japan’s future: Can the new leadership of the LDP restore public confidence in the government’s competence to beat the pandemic and the ability of elected leaders to demonstrate empathy and respond to public concerns? Do you sign the initiatives launched by Prime Minister Suga’s Digital And green energy transformation Orphaned or will they find a new agency? And can Japan emerge from COVID-19 with the same stable leadership and proactive foreign policy that it has been Contributed To deepen the alliance with the United States? This fall’s unpredictable Japanese political season will have enormous repercussions for both the country and the world.

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