Shinzo Abe’s greatest gamble

Tobias Harris

Publications Shinzo Abe’s greatest gamble

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike and Prime Minister Shinzō Abe shaking hands on May 11, 2017. Ms. Koike recently launched the new ‘Party of Hope’ to challenge the prime minister. Photo courtesy the government of Japan.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has repeatedly shown a willingness to take calculated risks to advance his goals. Now he is preparing to run his greatest risk yet, a snap election scheduled for Oct. 22.

The electorate increasingly appears to suffer from Abe fatigue. Abenomics, having gone through several iterations and achieved mixed results, is no longer a source of strength. The public is wary of Mr. Abe’s pledge to revise the constitution by 2020. And for most of this year, Mr. Abe has had to defend himself from allegations of influence peddling after two associates who operate private schools were found to have received conspicuously favorable treatment from the national government.

Mr. Abe feels confident enough to call an election in large part because his support has recovered, if not to his earlier peak, then to a still-comfortable level as high as 50% in some polls. However, in spite of his relatively high polling numbers, Mr. Abe may not be as popular as he seems. Even if voters don’t unseat the ruling LDP-Komeito coalition, they can still send a message that could cripple Mr. Abe’s premiership.

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