Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stands in front of the national flag of Japan after the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) annual convention in Tokyo, Japan March 5, 2017. REUTERS/Toru Hanai

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TOKYO, July 8 (Reuters) – Shinzo Abe, Japan’s longest-serving prime minister, launched his “Abenomics” policy to pull the economy out of deflation, bolstered Japan’s military and sought to counter the growing influence of the China during a historic two-term term. .

Abe, 67, appears to have been shot during a campaign speech on Friday, national broadcaster NHK reported. Read more

The Conservative lawmaker, who abruptly quit as prime minister in 2007 after a year in office, returned for a rare second stint in 2012 pledging to revive a stagnant economy, loosen the limits of a dovish constitution of after the Second World War and to restore traditional values. .

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He was instrumental in winning the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, cherishing the wish to preside over the Games and even appeared as Nintendo video game character Mario during the Olympics handover.

Abe became Japan’s longest-serving prime minister in November 2019, but by the summer of 2020 public support had been eroded by his handling of the COVID-19 outbreak as well as a series of scandals, including the arrest of his former Minister of Justice. He stepped down without chairing the Games, which were postponed to 2021 due to COVID-19.

He first took office in 2006 as Japan’s youngest prime minister since World War II. After a year plagued by political scandals, voter outrage over the loss of pension records and a humiliating election for his ruling party, Abe resigned citing poor health.

“What worries me the most now is that because of my resignation, the conservative ideals raised by the Abe administration will fade,” Abe wrote later in Bungei Shunju magazine.

“From now on, I want to sacrifice myself as a legislator to ensure that true conservatism takes root in Japan.”

Five years after his resignation, which he attributed to ulcerative colitis, an intestinal disease, Abe returned to power his conservative party, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) – ousted in 2009.

He then launched a three-pronged “Abenomics” strategy to defeat lingering deflation and revive economic growth with hyper-accommodative monetary policy and fiscal spending, as well as structural reform to deal with an aging and shrinking population. fast.

Deflation proved to be tenacious, however, and its growth strategy suffered in 2019 from a sales tax hike and the Sino-US trade war. The COVID-19 outbreak the following year triggered Japan’s biggest ever economic crisis.

At the start of the outbreak, Abe was slow to close Japan’s borders and institute a state of emergency urging people to stay home and shops to close. Critics first called the response clumsy and later blamed Abe for his lack of leadership.

Yet Japan’s death rate remained far lower than many other developed countries.

DYNASTY

Abe comes from a wealthy political family that included a foreign minister father and a great-uncle who served as prime minister. But when it comes to many policies, his grandfather, the late Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi, seems to have mattered the most.

Kishi was a wartime cabinet minister imprisoned but never tried as a war criminal after World War II. He served as prime minister from 1957 to 1960, resigning due to public outrage over a renegotiated security pact between the United States and Japan.

Aged five at the time, Abe heard the sound of clashes between police and left-wing crowds protesting the pact outside parliament as he played on his grandfather’s lap.

Kishi unsuccessfully attempted to revise Japan’s US-drafted 1947 constitution to become an equal security partner with the US and adopt more assertive diplomacy – issues central to Abe’s own agenda.

Abe has increased defense spending and reached out to other Asian countries to counter China. He pushed for laws to allow Japan to exercise the right of “collective self-defense”, or to militarily aid an ally under attack.

Overhauling the pacifist constitution remained a top priority for Abe, a controversial goal since many Japanese see the charter as responsible for the country’s postwar peace record.

Abe’s underlying agenda was to escape what he called post-war rule, a legacy of US occupation that conservatives say robbed Japan of its national pride. Reforming the education system to restore traditional mores was another of his goals.

He also took a less apologetic stance toward Japan’s actions during World War II, saying that future generations should not continue to apologize for past mistakes.

RIGID POSITION

First elected to parliament in 1993 after his father’s death, Abe gained national fame for taking a tough stance on unpredictable neighbor North Korea in a row over Japanese citizens kidnapped by Pyongyang some years ago. decades.

Although Abe has also sought to improve relations with China and South Korea, where bitter memories of the war run deep, he annoyed the two neighbors in 2013 by visiting Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine, considered by Beijing and Seoul as a symbol of Japan’s past militarism.

In subsequent years he refrained from visiting in person and instead sent ritual offerings.

Across the Pacific, Abe has formed a close bond with US President Donald Trump, playing golf and indulging in frequent phone calls and meetings.

He was re-elected LDP chairman for a third consecutive three-year term in 2018 after a party rule change and, until the COVID-19 pandemic hit, some LDP members had considered another rule change. to allow him a fourth term.

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Elaine Lies and Linda Sieg; Editing by Christopher Cushing and William Mallard

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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