Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe looked to be down and out five years ago, staring into what should have been the end of his political career. But after his resignation in 2007, Abe has been given a rare second chance to prove that the man who quit after barely a year in office has what it takes to survive as Japan’s long-term leader.
Abe, whose 2006-2007 term ended with an abrupt resignation after being plagued all year with scandals, an election defeat and a gastrointestinal ailment worsened by stress, got another chance when his party surged back to power in December. And this time, he’s apparently taking care of his health – resuming his jogging and sipping room-temperature water during parliament sessions. This is obviously to avoid stomach upsets. The prime minister is also tediously taking time to consult memos and reflecting on mistakes that he had jotted down after quitting.
Even opposition members agree that Abe and his regime is displaying a better ability to govern than the first administration, when public mistakes and scandals cost him five ministers, including one who committed suicide. “I think we are now seeing the effect of lessons they learned from the first Abe administration, which gave up mid-stream,” says Tetsuro Fukuyama, an upper house lawmaker whose Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) ousted Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in 2009. “I don’t know if he is a changed man, but I sense that those close to him are working together more effectively.”
The grandson of a prime minister and born of an elite political family, Abe was 52 years of age when he first took office, making him Japan’s youngest post-war prime minister. “He’s more mature, seasoned, a sort of ‘come-back’ guy after seeing hell,” says Kunihiko Miyake, a former diplomat who has known Abe for years, and research director at the Canon Institute for Global Studies in Tokyo. “Before, he was a person in a hurry and wanted results soon, impatiently. Now he is comfortable and not in a hurry,” he concludes.[ via Reuters ]