Please view the main text area of the page by skipping the main menu.

PM Abe's 3rd term as LDP president the time to realize goals: party heavyweight Amari

Former Minister in charge of Economic Revitalization and current chairman of the Liberal Democratic Party's Policy Research Council Akira Amari answers questions during an interview with the Mainichi Shimbun, on Sept. 12, 2018, at the National Diet Building. (Mainichi)

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's next three-year term as Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) president is the time to complete the "Abenomics" road map, escaping deflation and getting back on track toward economic growth, LDP Policy Research Council Chairman Akira Amari said to the Mainichi Shimbun in a Sept. 12 interview.

The party heavyweight is in favor of the 63-year-old Abe's re-election as president of the ruling LDP and thus prime minister of Japan. "The premier thinks if he fails to put in the effort to have revisions to the Constitution proposed during his last and upcoming term as party president, he will have abandoned his responsibility as a politician," Amari explained. Pointing to the high priority that Abe appears to have put on reforming the supreme law, Amari said the prime minister is pushing for debate in the Diet's House of Representatives Commission on the Constitution.

"The prime minister has an innate power to grab people's hearts," Amari continued, and has built up a first name relationship with both U.S. President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who have come to trust what "Shinzo says." Only Abe has the capability of acting as a link between the United States and the European Union as international rules are made about trade and the protection of personal information, he said.

As for the favoritism scandals concerning school operators Moritomo Gakuen and Kake Educational Institution, which have tripped up the Abe administration, Amari said that though Abe was not involved in the deals, "the prime minister was likely deeply reflecting on the possibility his statements to the Diet on the issue were unclear and thus misconstrued." That is why Abe said that he is "not a person without flaws" when announcing his bid for LDP president, according to Amari's interpretation.

The prime minister has been criticized for only surrounding himself with flatterers, Amari said, but "it is important to bring in the person most suited to carry out policy decisions." Regarding the newly established Cabinet Bureau of Personnel Affairs, which faces criticism for applying too much control over bureaucrats, Amari said "more time is needed" to test its efficiency. At the moment, the merits greatly outweigh the problems, the policy research chairman said.

Amari hopes that Abe will secure far more than the 55 percent of rank-and-file party members' votes that his opponent Shigeru Ishiba, 61, did during the last head-to-head LDP presidential race in 2012. It is important for the premier to win by a comfortable margin against the former LDP secretary-general "to smooth out any bumps within the party and garner wide support," Amari said.

From past experience, Amari said local LDP members finish voting roughly three days after ballots reach them. However, while Abe is now attending a multilateral summit in Russia, there is little that his supporters can do. Meanwhile, Ishiba is traveling around local areas in Japan to drum up support.

"What is important in talking about these activities are not the merits or demerits to their campaigns, but rather to consider the difference in potential between the incumbent and challenger," said Amari. If Ishiba is able to deliver a message with impact to the people of Japan during his tours for this race, then he has a chance to cement himself as a contender for the "post-Abe" period, even if he ends up failing to take the presidency this time, Amari emphasized.

Amari also believes that the slogan "honest, fair" being used by Ishiba is a motto that all members of the LDP and all Diet lawmakers should follow in their work. "That standard is a given, and is not a point up for debate," he noted.

(Interviewed by Hiroyuki Tanaka, Political News Department)

This is Part 1 in a series.

Also in The Mainichi

The Mainichi on social media