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Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe talks to journalists in front of the prime minister's residence in Tokyo on Tuesday night. Photo: Charly Triballeau/Pool via REUTERS
politics

Abe faces struggle on coronavirus, economy, after Olympics delayed

29 Comments
By Linda Sieg

Postponing the Olympics due to the coronavirus pandemic has turned a hoped-for year of triumphant celebration for Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe into a struggle to stem the outbreak and save the economy, but is unlikely to cost him his job.

Abe, who returned to office in 2012 promising "Japan is back", has closely associated himself with the multi-billion dollar Games. He promised the Fukushima nuclear crisis was "under control" during Tokyo's bid and appeared as video game character Super Mario at the 2016 Olympics closing ceremony.

Hosting the Games has been part of Abe's campaign to lure more foreign tourists to Japan as a pillar of economic growth. It would also achieve a goal that eluded his beloved grandfather Nobusuke Kishi, who was prime minister when Tokyo won its bid for the 1964 Olympics but resigned before event.

Now, the global spread of the virus has scuppered rosy scenarios in which Abe would preside over the Games this year, setting the stage to lead his party to an election victory.

After a call with International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach, Abe said on Tuesday the July 24-Aug 9 event would be rescheduled for the summer of 2021 at the latest.

Postponing the Games - rather than cancelling them - could help Abe keep his job, given a weak, fragmented opposition, the absence of consensus in his ruling party about a successor, and voter acceptance of the need for delay.

"Cancellation means no Tokyo Olympics. That is not something Japanese citizens want to see," said former diplomat Kunihiko Miyake, now research director at the Canon Institute for Global Studies, speaking before Abe's announcement. "If they are postponed, there is still hope."

POLITICAL SURVIVOR

Abe has survived several scandals to become Japan's longest serving prime minister, but came under fire for his response to the outbreak, first for a perceived lack of leadership and later for abrupt steps including school closures.

Since then, he has promised measures to counter the impact on an economy that was already teetering on the verge of recession, and his voter ratings have recovered. A mid-March Kyodo news agency survey showed his approval rating had risen to 49.7 percent, up from 41.0 percent in February.

"Abe's willingness to accept a delay, which would have once been an unthinkable political defeat ... could even give him a boost, as polls have shown that strong majorities favoring delaying the games," wrote Tobias Harris, senior vice president at consultancy Teneo.

Though it was one of the first places outside China to be affected by the new coronavirus, Japan has since reported fewer confirmed cases than the United States and some big countries in Europe. But critics say that is at least partly because it has been testing fewer people and the outbreak could yet become widespread, overburdening hospitals.

The economy was at risk of slipping into recession before outbreak hit and cancelling the games will be a further blow to household and corporate sentiment, already souring from event cancellations, slumping tourism and travel curbs.

"If the economy tanks just about when he is going to leave office, what does that do to his Abenomics legacy?" said Columbia University emeritus professor Gerry Curtis, referring to the Abe's hallmark mix of easy money, spending and reforms.

© Thomson Reuters 2020.

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

29 Comments
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The house of cards has fallen. Life will never be as it was again. God bless the farmers, they will be the new teachers to the world!

16 ( +18 / -2 )

Abe's new "three arrows":

Consumption tax rise

Coronavirus

Olympic postponement

a weak, fragmented opposition, the absence of consensus in his ruling party about a successor,

I'm getting sick of reading this again and again for the past 8 years as the explanation for why such a lackluster leader has survived so long.

25 ( +25 / -0 )

Abe has been PM since 2012 and the only achievements he can claim are:

1 - Lower corporate taxes (great news for mega wealthy businesses and continuing institutionalized 'Amakudari' .

2 - Higher consumption taxes (high costs of living for everyone, especially low income families)

3 - Increased national debt (higher debt servicing costs for future generations)

Abenomics was a complete failure and waste of time... Abe and his sidekick Aso have consistently demonstrated their ineptness and social ignorance. Please, correct me if i'm wrong.

30 ( +30 / -0 )

Abe survives not because he has strength, but because the people are weak. They'd rather complain about him and just say "shouganai" at elections (of course, they can't vote for him directly, but they COULD vote for people not in the LDP or coalition). If they had even a modicum of self-respect Abe would have been out ages ago. Get ready for him this week to start vowing about saving the economy, and probably to go visit the Yokotas again, since his popularity is dropping over the Olympics and handling of Corona.

16 ( +19 / -3 )

Japan always brags about it being such a rich country. It’s high time the Japanese government starts to show Japanese people just how deep the governmental pockets are and dish some money out to the minions and not just corporations. Other countries have shelled out a lot of support for ‘all’ people. C’mon Japan! Show the world your metal! People were struggling before the virus pandemic and the postponement of the games. Put your money where your mouth is.

15 ( +16 / -1 )

I think Abe is a good leader and I would give him a B+. Japan has internationalized measurably under his leadership and he has handled various crises in a measured manner. My main criticism is the extreme centralization of population in Tokyo where I live. In the past 10 year it has become more crowded with miserable commutes. I strongly hope he or the next leader would address this to develop the country more evenly.

-14 ( +5 / -19 )

Abe is looking much older and worn out recently. I feel for the guy. Abe, take a break, or you're gonna keel over.

1 ( +6 / -5 )

Yeah and my 100 yen McDonald’s hamburger jumped 110 yen today. Nice

5 ( +7 / -2 )

I have so much respect for Abe because he gave up his salary, told his children they must fend for themselves and that his wife did not know what she was signing when she gave govt. land away for a few Yen to some people that deceived her and her husband.

-6 ( +3 / -9 )

I dont think Mr Abe is so bad; I dont agree at all with his nationalistic goals? aims? Nippon Kaigi and all that noise, but for a Japanese PM, he is pretty decent. Previous ones were lacking, to say the least. Kan and the other one were clueless.

-10 ( +6 / -16 )

So now Abe and Koike are suddenly getting real about the virus. Of course this awakening has nothing to do with the Olympics finally getting cancelled.

shame on them risking lives.

17 ( +18 / -1 )

My main criticism is the extreme centralization of population in Tokyo where I live. In the past 10 year it has become more crowded with miserable commutes. I strongly hope he or the next leader would address this to develop the country more evenly.

Thats much bigger than Abe and I cant see it changing. Japanese seem to be very pleased with the misery. Japan has always had hidden treasures but its obvious ugly and depressing landscape has been an open secret for decades. You can even look at houses from the Taisho era, they are flimsy and unimaginative. I have no idea why. Quality of life has never been a priority here.

9 ( +10 / -1 )

I'm getting sick of reading this again and again for the past 8 years as the explanation for why such a lackluster leader has survived so long.

You and everyone else, and sadly this is the truth. Get used to reading this for at least a couple more years.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Smooth sailing so far for conservatives, but choppy unknown waters ahead.

How are concrete guys to know which egghead is right on the money going on from here.

Basic instincts were right only looking past, so the Yen will tell.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Stop copying trump, lets see, atleast u save lives. Mr Abe. Imagine people without hospitals at the Olympics ???.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

Lockdown Tokyo? Make it a criminal offense to leave home without a legitimate reason? Have police patrolling the streets? Yeah, right! Like that will ever happen in Tokyo or anywhere else in Japan. The J-gov haven't got passed asking and urging yet and, it's unlikely they ever will.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Stop copying trump, lets see, atleast u save lives. Mr Abe. Imagine people without hospitals at the Olympics ???.

I totally agree. They even set the date for April 12. I didn't know Easter mattered so much in Japan.

Truly pathetic leadership copying a con man in the US!

2 ( +2 / -0 )

The same ol',same ol' Abe spin story,with nothing new mentioned.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

The economy was heading downwards way before the corona or the postponement of the Olympics. It’s always so easy to blame something or someone in Japan.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Abe knew exactly what he was doing.

He placed his priorities in the wrong place though.

The viral infections in Japan have been a direct result of the Japanese government’s over reliance on Chinese tourism.

Now the fan is a nasty brown shade...!

3 ( +3 / -0 )

"Abe faces struggle ...... "

not just because or since the corona virus, delay of the Olympics ....

maybe you want to change "struggle" to "trouble"?

Wouldn't be the first and definitely not be the last time.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Silver spoon boy has to go he is so out of touch with the people its not funny...Families are hurting businesses are hurting Abe is doing nothing to help them out oh I forgot a measly 8000 yen if you have to take care of your child...Its all good when you born into wealth and have no kids..I hope the Japanese people get rid of him and his cronies ASAP...

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Abenomics legacy

The legacy of failed arrows? That legacy?

0 ( +2 / -2 )

I feel so sad for Prime Minister Abe...

Said no one ever.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

PM Abe will end his office on a sour note.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

a weak, fragmented opposition, the absence of consensus in his ruling party about a successor,

If Japan Communist Party can field a powerful presence without American interference, they could win the next election as soon as Abe is gone. The JCP recently denounced China heavily and cut ties with Xi Jinping. They are more like the Democrats of the USA now, and probably the best hope for Japan.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Hosting the Games has been part of Abe's campaign to lure more foreign tourists to Japan

Isn't (or rather, wasn't) there already enough tourists in Japan? Kyoto might as well be twinned with Venice. Where do you want these extra tourists to sleep? Under bridges?

When we look back at this later, Abe (and Koike) will be known as one of many politicians who put the Olympics above the safety of their people. In most countries, history will not be kind to them. Will the Japanese be more forgiving? Judging from past experiences, I unfortunately can guess the answer.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Postponing the Games - rather than cancelling them - could help Abe keep his job, given a weak, fragmented opposition,

That's the key.

The opposition has only criticized the LDP and Abe. But it never makes viable proposals for governing. In the event that they can ever govern. Not counting the fact that they'll ever get to the government. They'd have to do it with a tripartite governing formula in coalition. And when you govern with three different parties. Although their leftist ideas are similar. They are not exactly the same. Constantly clashing in internal disputes that only weakens that government. We saw it 10 years ago. No need to think too much.

Abe and the LDP may not be the best thing for Japan. But it's the best thing Japan has right now.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

If they had even a modicum of self-respect Abe would have been out ages ago.

Further, it is not for foreign nationals to decide who Japanese should be voting for any more than it is for me as a Japanese citizen to be telling Americans, Brits, Aussies, etc. who they should be voting for.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

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