Asia

Ups and downs of Abe's tenure as PM

Japan Correspondent Walter Sim traces the highs and lows of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s years in charge of the world’s third-largest economy.

September 26, 2006

Becomes Japan’s youngest post-war Prime Minister at the age of 52.

September 26, 2007

Quits as PM due to poor health, with support for his scandal-hit administration at a nadir. At least four ministers quit and one hanged himself. He sparks a revolving door of six Prime Ministers until he retakes the position in 2012.

December 26, 2012

Becomes PM again after the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) trounces Democratic Party of Japan in a general election.

January 2013

Moots the “Abenomics” brand of policies, comprising fiscal expansion, monetary easing and structural reform, to get Japan out of its economic funk. Sets inflation target of 2 per cent.

But the Covid-19 crisis has wiped out any gains from Abenomics with Japan in recession. The inflation goal also remains out of reach.

September 7, 2013

Tokyo wins bid to host the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, with Mr Abe’s strong lobbying. But the event, which would have cemented his legacy as PM, has been postponed to next year.

December 26, 2013

Becomes the first Japanese PM in seven years to visit the controversial war-linked Yasukuni Shrine, igniting a firestorm of criticism from China and South Korea, and disapproval from ally United States. He has not visited the shrine since.

July 1, 2014

Reinterprets the war-renouncing Constitution to allow “collective self-defence”, thus enabling Japanese troops to fight in the aid of allies under armed attack.

December 14, 2014

Wins snap election, called two years ahead of time, to attain public mandate on economic policies, including a tax hike delay.

August 14, 2015

Expresses remorse but gives no apology on the 70th anniversary of World War II. Says future generations of Japanese should not be made to keep apologising.

December 28, 2015

Reaches ‘comfort women’ deal with then-South Korea President Park Geun-hye to resolve the protracted issue of wartime sex slaves.

Her successor Moon Jae-in has effectively nullified the deal, while ties with Seoul have worsened due to such issues as wartime labour and trade.


A statue symbolising Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe taking a deep bow to a “comfort woman” is pictured at Korea Botanic Garden in Pyeongchang, South Korea. PHOTO: REUTERS

November 17, 2016

Visits US president-elect Donald Trump bearing gold-plated golf club, in charm offensive that rips up diplomatic protocol.

December 27, 2016

Becomes first Japanese prime minister to visit Pearl Harbour, in a trip that follows US President Barack Obama’s visit to Hiroshima in May.

February 2017

SCANDAL: Moritomo Gakuen

A plot of public land in Osaka was sold at just 14 per cent of its appraised value to the right-wing educator, to build a new elementary school where Mr Abe’s wife Akie was to be honorary principal.

After Mr Abe says he will quit if he or his wife were found to be directly involved in the sweetheart deal, official government documents are tampered with to scrub out names.

A Finance Ministry bureaucrat, ordered to doctor the documents, would kill himself. His widow has sued for damages in a case now before the courts.

May 3, 2017

Sets 2020 target to revise the pacifist Constitution for the first time since its 1947 enactment. The goal is now out of reach.

May 2017

SCANDAL: Kake Gakuen

Mr Abe was alleged to have favoured his close friend’s bid to win a licence for Japan’s first veterinary school in 52 years, thus disregarding due process.

The tender was termed a “prime ministerial matter” by a close aide.

June 15, 2017

Diet passes controversial “anti-terror” conspiracy bill, criminalising the plotting of 277 acts before they are committed. These include drug trafficking, copyright violation, and even theft of forestry goods.

October 22, 2017

Wins in snap election, called one year ahead of time to capitalise on an uptick in support after a Cabinet reshuffle, a disjointed opposition, and the potential flight to safety due to North Korea missile launches.

March 8, 2018

In a major coup, the revised Trans-Pacific Partnership deal is signed following US withdrawal. Member countries credit Mr Abe for his role as a flagbearer for multilaterism in pushing the pact to fruition.

July 20, 2018

Diet passes integrated resorts bill, pushed for by Mr Abe as a new driver of tourism dollars but controversial over fears that it will worsen gambling addiction.

A year later, LDP lawmaker Tsukasa Akimoto is arrested in an IR bribery scandal.

November 2019

SCANDAL: Sakura garden party

Mr Abe is alleged to have wined and dined voters from his Yamaguchi constituency in the annual taxpayer-funded event in Tokyo.

Amid calls for transparency, the government says that the invitation lists have been shredded.

November 20, 2019

Becomes Japan’s longest-serving prime minister at 2,887 days, including his 2006-2007 term in office. He overtakes Imperial Japanese Army general Taro Katsura, who led for 2,886 days in the early 1900s.

January 2020

SCANDAL: Prosecutor retirement

Mr Abe moots revised laws to extend the retirement age of handpicked prosecutors, triggering an uproar given that the intended beneficiary was his close ally Hiromu Kurokawa, chief of the Tokyo High Public Prosecutors Office.

Support sinks as celebrities lead the charge to pillory Mr Abe. Mr Kurokawa resigns in May after reports emerged that he breached social distancing guidelines by playing mahjong for money during a Covid-19 state of emergency.

The plan has been ditched.

April 8, 2020

Declares state of emergency amid worsening Covid-19 outbreak, but is criticised for being too laidback in pandemic response.

June 18, 2020

SCANDAL: Cash-for-votes

Mr Abe’s handpicked justice minister Katsuyuki Kawai and his wife Anri are arrested on charges of vote-buying at an Upper House election in 2019.

June 2020

Public support sinks over scandals and perceived indifference in Covid-19 measures.

Suffers early signs of relapse of ulcerative ulcerative colitis, a stress-induced chronic digestive ailment.

August 24, 2020

Sets record as PM with the longest uninterrupted stretch in office, at 2,799 consecutive days since 2012. He overtakes great-uncle Eisaku Sato’s record of 2,798 days from 1964 to 1972.


Mr Abe overtakes his great-uncle Eisaku Sato’s (above) record as PM with the longest uninterrupted stretch in office. PHOTO: ST FILE

Privately decides to quit after consulting with doctors.

August 28, 2020

Announces resignation.

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