#shinzoabe

Trump’s approval hits 50%

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A new Rasmussen Reports poll finds President Trump has cracked the 50% approval rating among likely voters, putting him ahead of where Barack Obama was at this point in his presidency. On the same day in Obama’s administration – April 2, 2010 – Rasmussen found 46% approved of the 44th president’s performance. Suggests that people are more interested in their daily personal issues than the media’s obsession in trying to find out whether Trump humped a porn star over a decade ago.

The fact is that Trump is polling well ahead of the most recent approval ratings for Macron, Trudeau, Merkel, Theresa May, Turnbull, Shinzo Abe or Pena Nieto. When Obama was in Japan last week he spoke of wantiong to create “a million young Barack Obamas” to take on the baton of “human progress”. No thanks.

Voters put Abe back while putting Koike back in her place

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So LDP party leader and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe won a majority in yesterday’s national election. While much expectation was made of Yuriko Koike’s conservative Party of Hope to take advantage of the scandal ridden LDP, voters looked at the platform which had a reasonably patchy manifesto (non-conservative policies of basic income and retained earnings taxation) and saw the fact she wasn’t running as a sign of a self vote of no confidence. While there was much promise at the start she’d drag the Democrats into her fold, they ended up splitting leaving her with too little time to front a proper challenge.

While Abe was tainted with two sizable scandals his coalition with the Komeito has given him 312 seats, a loss of 12 on the last election, the people were prepared to back a more stable platform in the LDP over Koike who ended up sadly being nothing more than hot air rather than the ‘populist’ which saw her crush the LDP at the local Tokyo level. Perhaps there was a touch of Theresa May who thought she had much more of a backing than ended up happening. The Party of Hope ended up with 49 seats, 8 less than the Dems who backed her had at the last election. The other half that split under Edano’s Constitutional Democrats ended up with 54, 39 better as he ran a more honest campaign.

The LDP will now have until 2021 where it is likely Abe will hand the reins over to Kishida, the current Minister of Foreign Affairs, mid term. Despite the typhoon on election day the turnout was a tad under 54%, up on 2014 and not too different from the 1979 election that fell during a typhoon.

One of Japan’s biggest problems is that opposition parties have never had much time in office and when they have they’ve not been effective. So with so much turmoil on the opposition side via a split Democrat platform, the LDP ended up winning because there was so little on offer on the other side. For Japan, there was no populist revolt like so many countries in the West. Koike thought she would gain a much bigger backing than she ended up with and her platform which promised a change to the chain smoking old guard in reality came up with little more than that smoke being blown back in her face.

Tokyo’s Iron Lady preparing a wrecking ball

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PM Abe may have more than met his match. It seems Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike could win the support of defections from the flailing Democratic Party of Japan. They are considering running no candidates under their own banner but under hers – The Party of Hope (Kibo no To). Koike isn’t playing by the rules and PM Abe’s wish to hold a snap election knowingly ceding seats so he could keep a majority may end up backfiring. She has next to nothing to lose and she represents a  “fresh” scandal-less face to the electorate. She is on a wave. Abe’s majority under threat.

Think of it this way. The LDP is embarking on a strategy that seeks to take some losses. In a sense they are openly conceding it is all about clinging to power. Hardly a promising election strategy. The slew of scandals (two with the PM himself) works to Koike’s favour in appealing to those that see her as a reboot to the decades of LDP cronyism.  Still early days but the momentum is almost tsunami like. Drain the swamp?

Tokyo Gov Koike shows powerful ad spurning the old guard

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike has released a powerful video which will likely capture the mood of what is going on in Japan’s political sphere. The cigarette chugging old men in the ad are screaming along the lines of “you wanna rise against us?”, “you wanna spurn our organizations?” and “if you change things it will be so problematic”. The model designed to look like Koike strides past ignoring them. With the stench in national politics (a long stream of scandals and corruption) her message is indeed powerful. It is still very early days and her success will rely on how ready some politicians are ready to defect. Koike is getting massive airtime and even if she chooses not to run it will be pitched as a Koike vs Abe campaign. Remember the hugely popular former PM Junichiro Koizumi was a backer of Koike. Let the games begin. This video will resonate.

Abe’s “Trump” card will be more effective than the UN

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The Japanese newspaper front pages are all splashed with the latest North Korean nuke test. Japanese PM Shinzo Abe has to quit asking the UN to step up sanctions. That is a purely optical illusion. Kim Jong Un is playing a different game. He doesn’t care. Trump is Abe’s only viable card to get Japan out of this long term mess. If Kim does possess the H-bomb it is clear that he intends to exploit his new toy box to snub his critics and take even harder lines to extort money.

While war is the least desired outcome, Kim must be careful not to bring down his own demise. Obama was the first US president Kim had direct exposure to but he would be wise to treat Trump as completely different. Trump maybe willing to remove the cancer that many presidents before haven’t. The sad reality is that having a 33yo dictator who subjugates his people like his father and grandfather before with such disdain has little to lose.

Getting a capable nuclear arsenal is not desired. It is clear he’d be willing to sell his technology to other tinpot dictatorships to top up the DPRK’s coffers. This has been done before when Israel blew up Syria’s North Korean derived and supplied nuclear facility in 2007.

China seems to be having less impact on young Kim. This should worry them.  China is the economic lifeblood of North Korea. The geopolitical buffer is a strategic must for China. There must be some circles calling for it to be turned into a Chinese protectorate. A Chinese led regime change where Kim Jong Un is granted an exile is a far better outcome than allowing US forces led strike to take it over

Although China may threaten to support Kim if the US preemptively strikes to topple the regime, they have said Kim’s on his own if he does anything stupid.

Kim isn’t stupid. However he is playing a very dangerous game of chicken with a player who realizes that this nuclear arsenal investment has to be stopped. It isn’t a question of if but when.

The idea that conflict can’t or won’t break out on Korean Peninsula is naive. Recall that the Korean War was never officially ended. Gut instincts suggest that if anyone is to take heavy handed action it is the Chinese that must do so. Beijing must also be wary of calling Trump’s bluff.

Abe’s sleepless nights won’t end until something definitive happens to North Korea. It is fraught with many risks but doing nothing now is the riskiest of all strategies over the long run. The UN is unlikely to achieve anything. Besides if they devoted even a slither of the energy and time they do to beat up Israel  one might have confidence in sanctions. Sadly too many vested interests with North Korea

Is PM Abe’s at risk of a health relapse with yet more voter backlash?

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Yet more voter backlash for PM Shinzo Abe and the LDP. The scandals and shenanigans are causing some glaring results at the local and prefectural level. Last month’s Tokyo Municipal Assembly elections saw the LDP experience its worst ever outcome. The Sendai Gubernatorial elections this Sunday saw the LDP stench continue. Japan has been pushing the Abenomics revival theme but given the stress from a plummeting approval rating (26% heading into the Kake Gakuen hearings in parliament) will his health issues kick up forcing him to resign? The July 22-23 Mainichi newspaper poll showed that 56% did not back his government, +12 points from the previous survey in June.

Independent candidate Kazuko Kori (right) promised education reform and a quick resolution to the problem of long child care waiting lists. Her LDP competition in the form of  Hironori Sugawara (left),ironically a president of a funeral services operator, was defeated.

PM Abe’s left his first term after just 12 months in 2006-2007 being diagnosed with an illness known as chronic ulcerative colitis — a type of inflammatory bowel disease which according to the Bungei Shunju monthly magazine in Feb 2008:

“He would rush to the toilet in pain…he felt the urge to evacuate every half hour or so.

While in the 2012 campaign Abe assured us he’d been cured, the question is whether the current crop of scandals (involving him and his wife Akie) will see a relapse of this condition, rendering him out of action. Markets are not yet forecasting Abe to resign but whatever one thinks about “Abenomics” it has brought some long overdue semblance of stability in Japanese politics. Should an event occur we could see some financial evacuations.