Published on September 22, 2017.

Politics - Who is who

Abe, Shinzo (LDP), Prime Minister

Mr. Abe has been Japan’s Prime Minister (PM) since December 2012. As of September 2017, he is already the third longest serving Prime Minister in the post-WW2 Japan. He was born into a political family as a grandson of a PM and a son of a Foreign Minister. Currently, he is serving as Japan’s PM for the second time. He became a PM for the first time in September 2006, but he stepped down citing health reasons in 2007 after his party, Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), suffered a severe defeat in an Upper House election. In September 2012, while LDP was still an opposition party, he returned to its leadership. Mr. Abe subsequently led LDP into a landslide victory in the Lower House election held on December 16, 2012, and became Japan’s PM again on December 26, 2012. Since then, LDP has won the majority of seats in three successive national elections. Under his rule, Japan has been mostly prosperous. Japan’s unemployment rate fell from 4.3% at the end of 2012 to 2.8% as of September 2017. Corporate profits have been renewing its historical high in recent quarters. Such economic success earned him high approval rates in the range of 45 to 60% until 2017 when a series of political scandals caused his approval rate to plummet to 34% in July 2017.

His policies can be described as a neoconservative, although the emphasis seems to be more on looser fiscal and monetary policy, rather than on deregulation. He hit the political goldmine when he practically directed BoJ to raise its inflation target from 1% to 2% and appointed Haruhiko Kuroda as a BoJ Governor to pursue an aggressive monetary easing policy. In the social policy area, he started off as conservative, arguing for cuts in social security, but his policy stance seems to have shifted toward expanding welfare and education spending. In the national security area, he is a military hawk. In 2015, he succeeded in passing a law enabling closer military cooperation between Japan and United States. On energy policy, he is pro-nuclear energy. 

Aso, Taro (LDP), Finance Minister

Mr. Aso is the current Finance minister as well as the minister in charge of FSA, the regulatory agency for the financial industry. He also carries the title of Vice Prime Minister. Mr. Aso was PM of Japan for a year between September 2008 and September 2009. Similar to Mr. Abe, he was born into a political family. His grandfather is Shigeru Yoshida, one of the most iconic Prime Ministers in the post-WWII Japan. He is also a son-in-law of Prime Minister Zenko Suzuki.

Mr. Aso is known for his preference to stimulate the economy through an active use of fiscal policy. Under his leadership, the cyclically adjusted fiscal deficit to GDP ratio deteriorated from 3.1% in 2008 to 6.9% in 2009, according to OECD estimate. On monetary policy, Mr. Aso seems to favor looser monetary policy. He argues that the BoJ should be held accountable for letting deflation persist for this long. However, he does not seem as active as Mr. Abe in intervening in the monetary policy. Mr. Aso is known for his love of Manga and being prone to making political gaffes. 

Ishiba, Shigeru (LDP)

Mr. Ishiba is one of the political rivals to Shinzo Abe within LDP. He emerged to the political center stage by coming close to winning the LDP leadership election in September 2012. Mr. Ishiba's policies tend to be moderate in a broad range of issues. His economic policy seems somewhat more centrist, arguing for both growth as well as for fiscal reconstruction. He calls for lowering corporate tax below 30%. He calls for freer trade but hedges himself by adding, only when it benefits the overall welfare of Japan. He does not seem to have a particularly strong view on the monetary policy. He is considered to be an expert on. Security, having served three times as a Defense Minister. However, unlike Mr. Abe, he does not seem to have a revisionist tendency. He is against visits to the Yasukuni Shrine by Prime Minister.

Koike, Yuriko (Governor of Tokyo)

Yuriko Koike has been the Governor of Tokyo since July 2016. She has been a parliamentarian since 1992 and belonged to LDP between 2002 and 2017. She has served some ministerial positions, including a brief stint as a Defense Minister for Prime Minister Abe. She also ran for LDP leadership in 2008 as a first female candidate for the position and came third in the race. Her political stance is like Mr. Abe. She is a nationalist with a revisionist tendency. In the past, she belonged to Nihon Kaigi, a right-wing think tank to which Mr. Abe, Mr. Aso and many of their cabinet members belong. On economic policy, she seems to seek a middle ground, neither overtly liberal nor protectionist. On social policy, she is progressive, positioning herself as a banner holder for woman’s right. 

Maehara, Seiji (DPJ)

Seiji Maehara was elected to be the leader of Japan’s leading opposition party, Democratic Party of Japan on September 1, 2017. This is the second time for him to lead the party. He first became the leader of DPJ in September 2005, but he resigned less than a year later taking a responsibility of a scandal the party was involved in at the time. While DPJ was in power between 2009 to 2012, he was a Minister of Land, Transportation, and Construction before becoming a Minister of Foreign Affairs. On his policy inclination, we would consider him as center-right. He has argued for revising article 9 of Japan’s constitution confirming Japan’s right to hold military force. He is also considered to be a hard-liner against China. On social and economic issues, he views seem centric.

Edano, Yukio (DPJ)

Yukio Edano is a parliamentarian belonging to DPJ. In the DPJ leadership election held on September 1, 2017, he lost again Seiji Maekawa. He came to a political spotlight as a Chief Cabinet Secretary when Tohoku earthquake and Fukushima nuclear accident struck Japan. We should consider him as a center-left. He seems to favor the tradition of Japan’s Pacifist constitution and emphasizes restraint on the use of military power. On economic and social policies, he also seems center-left, promoting the importance of social security and consumer protection.

Ozawa, Ichiro (Liberal Party)

Mr. Ozawa belongs to one of the fringe political parties, Liberal party. He used to quite prominent in Japan’s political landscape, but his political influence has been all but extinguished after leading his followers to numerous electoral defeats in recent years. His policy views are complex, perhaps due to his constant campaign strategizing. He has been known to hold a liberal economic policy view and has argued to raise consumption tax rate to 10% in the past. However, he is currently against freer trade, and he tends to advocate for a larger role for the government in social policy. He currently argues for no consumption tax rate hike and the abolition of nuclear power plants in the next 10 years.

Hashimoto, Toru (ex-JRP)

Mr. Hashimoto currently holds no political position, having resigned as the head of Japan Restoration Party in 2015 and publicly announcing a retirement from politics. He still retains a significant political influence and may return to politics in future. He was a practicing lawyer and a TV celebrity before he became the Governor of Osaka Prefecture in 2008 and then the Mayor of Osaka city in 2011.

His policies have tended to emphasize the regionalism within Japan, calling for a delegation of power from the central government to local governments. While his stance on national policies is unclear at this point, his economic policy seems quite liberal, proposing deregulation and privatization of public sectors. His economic policy is unclear. He has voiced his support for consumption tax rate hike in the past and he argues for maintaining nuclear technology.

Matsui, Ichiro (JRP), Governor of Osaka

Ichiro Matsui is the leader of Japan Restoration Party. He has been considered a deputy for Toru Hashimoto and his policy inclination echoes that of Mr. Hashimoto. He has nationalist tendencies and seems sympathetic to Shinzo Abe on security policies.


Published on September 22, 2017