Prime Minister Shinzo Abe Photo: REUTERS file

Abe sets record as longest-serving PM as allegations of misdeeds persist

By Linda Sieg

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe became Japan's longest-serving premier on Wednesday, a remarkable feat for a leader who once quit in humiliation, but the day was marred by questions about possible election law violations and worries about the economy.

Abe, 65, who served his first term for just one year before quitting in 2007, made a comeback in December 2012, promising a stronger military and a revamped economy while aiming to revise Japan's post-war, pacifist constitution.

Pointing to such challenges as Japan's aging population and constitutional revision - a divisive topic - Abe vowed to push ahead in the last two years of his term as Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) leader, which ends in September 2021.

"I want to tackle policy issues with my heart and soul, with a sense of treading on thin ice and staying on my toes, not forgetting the spirit with which I began," Abe told reporters.

Abe has won relatively high marks for his diplomacy. His warm ties with U.S. President Donald Trump may have averted worst-case scenarios in trade feuds, although scant progress has been made on a territorial row with Russia and relations with South Korea are frigid.

Wednesday marked Abe's 2,887th day in office over his two stints as prime minister. That broke the record set by Taro Katsura more than a century ago.

Abe has led his ruling coalition to six national election victories since returning, surviving allegations of cronyism and scandals over falsified data by bureaucrats.

Those victories were aided by a fragmented opposition and unpleasant memories of the rocky 2009-2012 rule by the novice Democratic Party of Japan.

But since a cabinet reshuffle in September, two ministers - both close allies of Abe - have resigned over allegations of election campaign law violations.

Now Abe is under fire over accusations he not only favored supporters with invites to a state-funded cherry blossom viewing party but may have broken campaign laws by subsidising backers' attendance at a reception the night before.

Abe has denied wrongdoing. On Wednesday, he said that it was up to the public to assess his accountability but that he would answer more questions in parliament.

A Nov. 16-17 Asahi newspaper poll showed 68% weren't convinced by his explanations, though support was steady at 44%.

Concerns the economy is headed for recession also cloud Abe's future. Japan's exports tumbled at their quickest pace in three years in October amid weakening demand from the United States and China.

© (c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2019.

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

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Well done PM Abe, WELL DONE! Amazing achievement!

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

Japan economy was blunted in the late 80s with the unfair treaty.

Japan military was blunted after WW2 with article 9.

Its time for a change Nippon.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

Ganbare Japan!Today  10:05 am JST

Well done PM Abe, WELL DONE! Amazing achievement!

You set the bar pretty low for "amazing" achievements, don't you.

"The biggest reason (for his longevity) is that he's better than the DPJ government," Seiko Noda, an LDP lawmaker and potential Abe rival, told Reuters.

Hardly an amazing achievement. He hasn't managed much else.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

"He hasn't managed much else."

Really unemployment at 2.4% record low homeless, an economy 10% bigger, record corp, profits, record low crime, longest life expectancy.

Today news:

Tokyo's homeless population shrinks 7% in central wards

Strong job market reduces number of people living on streets and in parks

What say you???

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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