Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Parliament win gives Abe a free hand

By Cai Hong (China Daily) Updated: 2014-12-16 08:49

The sweeping victory Japan's ruling coalition secured in the Lower House election on Sunday heralds a big change in Japan, for better or for worse.

The two coalition parties - the Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito - will chair all the committees in the more powerful chamber of Japan's parliament, they can even override decisions by the Upper House, and Shinzo Abe will be sworn in as prime minister for the third time.

The third Abe administration now has a free hand in all issues, be they social, economic, security or diplomatic.

And, an overt nationalist and historical revisionist, Abe has a big plan for Japan. He is eager to restore Japan's position as one of the leading countries in the world, worrying that its voice and influence are shrinking, and he is seeking a "departure from the postwar regime" to "bring back Japan". With four years ahead, his plan might seem to be within his grasp, but whether he can bring Japan back is open to question.

In an interview with the Economist before the election, Abe married his economic policy goals with his diplomacy. "We have to have a strong economy to have a strong diplomacy," he said. And it's his diplomatic moves that could have the greatest impact on Japan's future.

In the past two years he has pushed step by step toward his plan to depart from the postwar regime.

He has established a Japanese National Security Council. He announced the first National Security Strategy and the National Defense Program Guidelines that introduced the concept of "a Dynamic Joint Defense Force".

Abe's government has also reinterpreted the Constitution to allow the country to exercise the right of collective self-defense, and it has formally lifted Japan's decades-old ban on weapons exports. It has also revised textbook screening guidelines to give Japanese children a more patriotic take on modern Japanese history and to better reflect the government's view on territorial issues. During the election campaign, the controversial State Secrecy Law went into effect.

As former Japanese diplomat Ukeru Magosaki warned on Sunday, the country is tilting right fast.

Abe will likely push with fresh urgency next year a bid to have some of the legislation passed in the parliament to allow Japan's Self-Defense Forces to play a larger role in the region and world.

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