Japan: New Script, Same Cast

Japan: New Script, Same Cast

The last time Shinzo Abe was prime minister, he exited politics with his head hung in shame. Now, he’s back in the driver’s seat.

Abe and his Liberal Democratic Party (Don’t be fooled by the name, they are conservative) took back power in what was a scathing public memorandum for the then-reigning Democratic Party of Japan. Putting his past scandals behind him and riding high on the LDP’s election victory, ‘Abe 2.0’ is proving to be quite bold in his quest for economic stimulus and reform. But his political confidants haven’t changed. And that’s a very big problem.

Take his deputy prime minister, former prime minister Taro Aso, as an example. During his stint as foreign affairs minister under party juggernaut Junichiro Koizumi, Aso often had abrasive remarks for Chinese and Korean government officials. It only got worse after he became head of state. Aso sat at the head of the party as it was handed one of its worst defeats in modern history. Going into a future with an armed North Korea, he probably isn’t the best pick for the number #2 spot in Japan’s government. But he is there, nonetheless.

What is also shocking in Abe’s new cabinet is the dearth of women. In its heyday the LDP was famous for its kunoichi, or female ninjas, who were reaching levels of political power unheard of for Japanese women in the past. Now? One of the only female members of Abe’s cabinet is…wait for it…Minister of the Decline in Birth Rate.

…Seriously?! And I thought the American GOP had issues.

Other players in the new administration are familiar faces–some of them marred by numerous gaffes and scandals. And the new prime minister re-hired them all. Shinzo Abe was once hailed as the LDP’s heir apparent. But it looks like he’s taking the Japanese conservative movement one giant step backwards.