Will Japan’s checks and balances survive the teflon prime minister in 2018?

Author: Aurelia George Mulgan, UNSW Canberra

As Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) leader, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has delivered five electoral victories for his party in five years. This achievement has consolidated his power and position as both LDP President and Prime Minister. Japan no longer suffers from a revolving-door prime ministership, which characterised some earlier LDP as well as Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) administrations.

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe delivers his policy speech at the lower house of parliament in Tokyo, Japan, 17 November 2017 (Photo: Reuters/Kim Kyung-Hoon).

Along with political stability and longevity, the Abe administration has also delivered the ‘politics of decision’ under the leadership of a powerful prime ministerial executive that comprises the prime minister and his executive office (Kantei), together with a beefed-up policy and administrative support apparatus. Under Abe, this executive has consolidated its power over the LDP and the bureaucracy — the two main sources of countervailing policymaking power to the prime minister and the Kantei.

Abe managed to accumulate this power despite enduring two very serious school scandals in 2017 involving allegations that individuals cozy with Abe and his wife received favourable treatment from his government in establishing educational facilities. The decision to hold a snap lower house election in October, together with the use of other tactics (such as significantly slashing …continue reading