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Shinzo Abe: Japan’s longest-serving prime minister

#Shinzo #Abe #Japans #longestserving #prime #minister

Shinzo Abe has broken records as Japan’s longest-serving prime minister, championing ambitious economic reforms and forging important diplomatic ties while weathering scandals.

Almost two years after ill health forced him to leave office, the 67-year-old was shot dead during a campaign rally in the western Nara region on Friday.

He was taken to a local hospital and died there almost five hours later, hospital officials said.

Abe was a sprightly 52 when he first became Prime Minister in 2006, the youngest person to hold the post in the post-war period.

He was seen as a symbol of change and youth, but he also brought with him the pedigree of a third-generation politician nurtured from birth by an elite, conservative family.

Abe’s first term was tumultuous, riddled with scandal and discord, and crowned with an abrupt resignation.

After initially suggesting he was stepping down for political reasons, he admitted he was suffering from a condition that was later diagnosed as ulcerative colitis.

– They called it “Abenomics” –

The debilitating gut condition required months of treatment but was eventually overcome with the help of new drugs, Abe says.

He ran again, and Japan’s revolving door to prime minister brought him back to office in 2012.

This ended a turbulent period in which prime ministers sometimes changed once a year.

With Japan still reeling from the effects of the 2011 tsunami and subsequent Fukushima nuclear disaster — and a brief opposition government lashed out over flip-flops and incompetence — Abe offered what appeared to be a safe pair of hands.

And he had a plan: Abenomics.

The plan to revive Japan’s economy — the world’s third-biggest but stagnant for more than two decades — included huge government spending, massive monetary easing and cutting red tape.

Abe also sought to boost the country’s falling birth rate by making the workplace kinder to parents, especially mothers.

He pushed through controversial consumption tax hikes to fund kindergartens and fill gaps in Japan’s overburdened social security system.

Despite some reform progress, the economy’s major structural problems remained.

Deflation proved persistent and the economy was already in recession before the outbreak of the coronavirus in 2020.

Abe’s star continued to wane during the pandemic, with his approach criticized as confused and slow, and his approval ratings plummeting to some of the lowest of his tenure.

– Political Storms –

On the international scene, Abe took a hard line on North Korea but sought a peacemaking role between the United States and Iran.

He prioritized a close personal relationship with Donald Trump to protect Japan’s key alliance from the then-US president’s “America First” mantra, and sought to mend relations with Russia and China.

But the results were mixed: Trump wanted to continue to force Japan to pay more for US troops stationed in the country, a deal with Russia over disputed northern islands remained elusive, and a plan to invite Xi Jinping on a state visit remained elusive the way.

Abe also took a hard line with South Korea over unresolved war disputes and continued to circulate plans to revise Japan’s pacifist constitution.

Throughout his tenure, he weathered political storms, including accusations of nepotism that hurt approval ratings but did little to dent his power, thanks in part to the weakness of the opposition.

Abe was due to stay until the end of 2021, giving him a chance to see one final event in his historic tenure – the postponed Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

But in a shock announcement, he resigned in August 2020, with a recurrence of ulcerative colitis also ending his second term.

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#Shinzo #Abe #Japans #longestserving #prime #minister

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