Thursday, April 11, 2013

Outlook for the Abe Cabinet

On February 28, APP member Michael Cucek, who writes the Shisaku blog on Japanese politics, gave an analysis of the early successes of the Abe Cabinet to Temple University's Institute of Contemporary Asian Studies (ICAS) in Tokyo that is headed by APP member Robert Dujarric. Cucek reviews the carefully choreographed and sophisticated politics of Abe's first moves. 

He is impressed by Abe's new ability at stage-managing appointments, especially that the of new Bank of Japan president. Cucek was stunned by the passage by of the supplemental budget, which should have been rejected by the House of Councilors. Instead, Abe cobbled together a victory with a deft dealing of favors and promises to even the most adamant opposition that ended in destroying a number of small parties. This clever ploy was not expected of Abe from his past performances.

Cucek predicts, as others, that the LDP will sweep the July Upper House elections. The Abe Cabinet has maintained an unusual popularity to which Chinese and North Korean provocations have contributed.

What could go wrong for Abe? 1. A reversal of market sentiment; 2. Scandals; 3. International incident; 4. Internal dissension; 5. Policy overreach; 

What could go right? 1. DPJ remains in disarray; 2. Neither Ishihara nor Hashimoto can touch Abe's rightwing credentials; 3. a proper policy mix--here Cucek points points out Abe's oft-called pragmatism. Economics of the extreme left while playing on a fear of change in Asia. The Japanese people have come around to accepting Abe's belief in the importance of a more robust military presence. They have not come to this way of thinking because of any rightward shift in thinking or by "coming home" to Abe's radical path to a pre-1945 glory. They have done so because the world is a dangerous place. 4. focusing on wanting to win the Upper House elections.

Cucek concludes that Abe will do well over the next few months, win the July Upper House elections, and then will visit Yasukuni in August as he needs to be true to himself.

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