So, Abe finally tipped the king and resigned. I really thought he would hold out longer, but with possible health problems and the insane stress-levels, who can blame him?
Three questions are raised for me: Who will succeed him?, What does this mean for the abduction issue?, and What does this mean for the ‘new conservative’ agenda?*
(*)’New conservative’ was a term I used in my dissertation to describe Abe’s ilk without applying the much abused neo-con label.
Anything I say here will be a guess, but I can see possibly three candidates as of now (keep in mind that I’ve been out of the in-depth political news for a while): Aso Taro, Fukuda Yasuo, and Tanigaki Sadakazu. In fact, you’ll notice that my list is just the list from the previous LDP election, minus Abe, and with greater emphasis on Fukuda. The successor question will have a large effect on the outcomes of the other two questions.
The abduction issue appears to be being downplayed (in relative terms). I would hope that any successor to Abe can continue this trend, however, with someone as inclined towards populism as Aso might be, there is always danger of a resurgent abduction diplomacy. Either way, Japan’s basic stance towards North Korea will not undergo a significant shift at this stage: it will still refuse progress without the solution of bilateral issues. All that might change is Japan’s willingness to employ a carrot to its frequently used stick.
The ‘New Conservative’ Agenda
Clearly, regardless of Abe’s existence, there will be a hardcore section of the LDP which will share his dreams of patriotism and strength, although they may not faff around with flowery terms like ‘beautiful’. The question is really, how much strength will these proponents receive with the new successor. A like-minded individual, such as Aso Taro, is likely to maintain or increase their strength, whereas Fukuda or Tanigaki offer a less conservative nationalist outlook that might indeed weaken them.
The LDP are going to choose a new president, and ergo a new Prime Minister of Japan. Their choice will have wide-reaching implications. The abduction issue’s new turn could be reversed, and the agenda of patriotic history leading to future strength could go either way. We watch with baited breath.