Japan′s Shinzo Abe wins party backing as prime minister | News | DW | 20.09.2018
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Japan's Shinzo Abe wins party backing as prime minister

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been rallying support in a vote for the leadership of his Liberal Democratic Party. The win puts him on course to be the country's longest-serving prime minister.

Members of Japan's Liberal Democratic Party voted on Thursday for their top leadership post, in a poll that incumbent Prime Minister Shinzo Abe comfortably won and extended his mandate by three years.

A total of 810 votes were up for grabs — half of them coming from the Liberal Democratic Party members of parliament, with the rest allocated according to the votes of rank-and-file party members. Polls had shown the 63-year-old Abe would romp to victory against a former defense minister, Shigeru Ishiba.

In the end, Abe secured 553 votes against 254, roughly 68 percent support. The margin of Abe's win was crucial, as it would determine how easy it might be for him to introduce reforms.

Although voters view the economy and social security as their top priorities, Abe aims to use the new mandate to pursue his dream: the rewriting of Japan's post-World War II pacifist constitution.

That text, imposed by the victorious US occupiers after the war, forces Japan to "forever renounce war" and insists that armed forces "never be maintained" by Japan.

Other Japanese prime ministers have sought to alter the text. They include Abe's own grandfather, who viewed the constitution as a humiliation that was forced on Japan in light of its wartime defeat.

Abe has said the changes would merely end a paradox by which, under the constitution, Japan's well-equipped Self-Defense Forces should technically not exist.

Read more: Abe's victory: A mandate to amend Japanese constitution?

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Japan's economy on the rebound

Pledge to reform social security

Abe was last given a mandate by the wider electorate in October 2017, when his party won a resounding victory.

Since he came to power in 2013, the prime minister's "Abenomics" brand of monetary policy, spending and structural reform have helped reflate growth. However, critics have said the reforms came up short, and Abe has been implicated in a number of cronyism and cover-up scandals.

"I'm determined to build a new country together with you," Abe said on the eve of the election on Wednesday. "I promise to take the lead in handing over a proud and hopeful Japan to younger generations."

Abe is now pledging to reform social security by raising the retirement age to above 65, and making it easier for people to remain in the workforce.

The vote puts Abe on course to beat the record of Taro Katsura as the longest-serving prime minister. Katsura, a revered politician, served three times intermittently between 1901 and 1913.

rc/cmk (dpa, Reuters, AFP)

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