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Chapter Twenty-One
Period of President Abe's Leadership

On September 20, 2006, a Party presidential election was held and three candidates, Shinzo Abe, Sadakazu Tanigaki, and Taro Aso ran for the expiration of term of office of President Junichiro Koizumi.  Mr. Abe won an overwhelming victory receiving 464 of 702 valid votes and was duly elected the 21st President of the LDP.

 

Prior to the announcement of the Party presidential election, Party members and Party fraternities hosted 10 Regional Bloc Conventions throughout the country; after the official announcement, the Election Management Committee of the Party held four public presentations in major cities. The candidates had open and lively discussions over their policies, which showed the openness and transparency of selection process for President. This displayed the Party’s rich talents and its well run organization, aspects that appealed greatly to the Japanese public.

 

New Party President Shinzo Abe declared that he would be unflinching in keeping the torch of reform burning as the LDP as it has always done since its formation. On September 25 Abe appointed new Party officials: Hidenao Nakagawa as Secretary-General, Yuya Niwa as Chairman, General Council, and Shoichi Nakagawa as Chairman, Policy Research Council.

 

At the 165th Extraordinary Diet session opened on September 26 with a plenary session of the both House of Representatives and the House of Councillors, Party President Shinzo Abe was appointed as Japan’s 90th Prime Minister, the youngest since World War II and the first leader born in the postwar era.  In his inaugural address, he explained his vision for “a beautiful country, Japan" - a country filled with vitality, opportunity and compassion which cherishes a spirit of self-discipline and is open to the world.  His vision of “a beautiful country, Japan" includes a country that values culture, tradition, history and nature; a country underpinned by free society, which respects discipline, and has dignity; a country that continues to possess the vitality to grow toward the future; a country that is trusted, respected and loved in the world and that demonstrates leadership.  He promised to make further advance of structural reform that the former Koizumi Cabinet had promoted for the last five years.

 

In October, Prime Minister Abe travelled on his first overseas trip to Beijing, People’s Republic of China, on later to Seoul, Republic of Korea, to have talks with President Hu Jintao and with President Roh Moo Hyun respectively.  During the talks in China, both men agreed to build a strategic relationship of mutual benefit focusing on maneuvering of politics and economy; they compared themselves to two wheels on a single cart.  At the meeting in Seoul both leaders agreed to work for a stronger friendship and strengthening their cooperation for the resolving of the abduction issue.

 

On the same day of the talks with the South Korean President Roh Moo Hyun, North Korea announced it had undertaken a nuclear test.  Although the talks went ahead as originally scheduled, the majority of time was spent collecting information on North Korea’s threat to the peace and crafting a response to the test.  Prime Minister Abe initiated a variety of measures, including financial sanctions on North Korea, demanding unconditional return to the Six Party Talks, the discontinuance of ballistic missile and nuclear tests, and the settlement of the abduction issues.  The LDP formally protested against North Korea’s action and immediately established the Headquarters for Countermeasures against North Korean nuclear test, appointing Secretary-General Nakagawa as chairman. 

 

On October 22, two by-elections were held in Kanagawa 16th and Osaka 9th District for the House of Representatives.  Backed by the LDP, Mr. Zentaro Kamei and Mr. Kenji Harada won the seats, respectively.  These elections were the first national elections under the President Abe, and the all-out effort of the Party resulted in the victories.  On the November 19, the gubernatorial election of Okinawa Prefecture was held and Mr. Hirokazu Nakaima, endorsed by our Party, was elected Governor of Okinawa. He pledged to stimulate the economy by encouraging new private investment in Okinawa.

 

The 165th Extraordinary Diet session closed on December 19 after 85 days of sitting.  During the session, bills concerning the Basic Education and the transition to the Ministry of Defense, and 12 others were passed. Notably, the Basic Education Law, the most critical bill for the Abe Administration to pass, was revised for the first time since it was created 59 years earlier. It was truly a first step for rebuilding Japan’s education that the Abe Cabinet was committed to.

 

On January 25 the following year, the 166th Ordinary Diet session was convened and Prime Minister Abe’s policy speech in the Diet declared his direction mainly focusing on strengthening Japan’s growth potential, in a “society with full of opportunities to take on challenges”, “rebuilding education”, and “proactive diplomacy”.  Among many other policies, he stressed “rebuilding education” as a first priority of the Cabinet to tackle in order to promote education reforms ushering in “a new era in education”.

 

In a gubernatorial election in Aichi Prefecture on February 4, incumbent governor Masaaki Kanda, endorsed by our Party, was elected for the third consecutive term, holding off his challenger in a hotly contested race.  In Okinawa on April 22, a by-election for the House of Councillors was held and Ms. Aiko Shimajiri, a newcomer endorsed by the LDP, was elected after a tough contest between the ruling and opposition parties.

 

On April 13, a bill aimed at amending the Constitution, which was advocated by Prime Minister Abe in order for Japan to be released from the politically imposed doctrine in the post-war period, passed at the plenary session of the House of Representatives.  On May 11, it passed the Special Committee on Constitution Research of the House of Councillors attended by the Prime Minister.  On May 14, the final approval was given by the plenary session of the House of Councillors and it was subsequently enacted.  One of the founding principles of the Liberal Democratic Party was the rewriting of the constitution with the endorsement of the Japanese people. More than half a century had passed, and the stage was set for the LDP to usher constitutional amendments through the Diet. Three years later, the Law was put into effect, which paved the way for amendments to the constitution.

 

In June, Prime Minister Abe attended the G8 Summit 2007 Heiligendamm, Germany, where he proposed measures to tackle global warming.  In pursuit of his policy of “Proactive Diplomacy”, he succeeded in having the chairman’s summary include North Korean abduction issues.

 

Prime Minister Abe placed high importance on reform of Japanese education and he established a commission to review the educational system. Four education-related bills – the School Education Law, the Law Concerning Organization and Functions of Local Educational Administration, the Education Personnel Certification Law, and the Special Act for Education Personnel – were enacted after passing the Diet on June 20.  On the same day, a revised bill on Special Measures concerning Humanitarian Relief and Reconstruction Work and Security Assistance in Iraq was also passed. The Prime Minister declared that Japan would contribute to the recovery of Iraq along with the international community.

 

Other key bills including a reform bill on the Social Insurance Agency, a bill on Extinctive Prescription for Insurance Benefit of Employees' Pension Insurance, and a bill on Reform of National Public Officers' Systems came into law on July 30 at the plenary session of the House of Councillors.  Responding to the Japanese people’s anger at the scandal surrounding pension records, repeated cases of corruption, and the parachuting of former government officials into private companies, the government took prompt actions such as dissolution of the Social Insurance Agency and radical reform of the system for the hiring of senior public servants. The enactment of these bills enabled the government to build greater confidence in the administration and work toward regaining the people’s trust.

 

The 166th Ordinary Diet session was extended by 12 days and closed on July 5. Due to the extended deliberation, the Diet was able to pass all the 117 bills and treaties in spite of strong resistance of the opposition parties. 

 

The 21st elections for the House of Councillors were officially announced on July 12 and held on July 29.  The LDP put forward 84 candidates in total: 48 candidates with Party’s endorsement, one with Party’s recommendation, and 35 for the proportional representation, but obtained only 38 seats: 24 for electoral constituencies including one with recommendation, and 14 for the proportional representation. The result was a historic defeat for the Party, with the Democratic Party of Japan becoming the dominant party in the House of Councillors. Though the LDP still held the majority in the House of Representatives, the result left a divided Diet and made the task of enacting sound public policy much more complex. Even before the election officially began, the political winds were blowing harshly against the government and the LDP because of three notable problems: the lost pension records, the culture of money politics, and inappropriate remarks made by some Cabinet members.  Although Party officials, from the Prime Minister Abe down, energetically set out of stumping tour across the country to communicate the Party’s policies and measures, the headwind was too strong to ease the situation of distrust in politics and the administration.  .

 

In response to the harsh judgment of the Japanese people, Prime Minister Abe reshuffled his Cabinet and appointed new Party executives. He saw the re-organization as a means of more effectively tackling issues such as the Maritime Self Defence Force's mid-ocean refueling operations in the Indian Ocean. The new Cabinet was formed on August 27 and new Party officials commenced: Taro Aso was Secretary-General, Toshihiro Nikai as Chairman, General Council, and Nobuteru Ishihara as Chairman, Policy Research Council.

 

The 168th Extraordinary Diet session was convened on September 10.  Due to ongoing health problems and in order to reinvigorate the political situation, Prime Minister Abe announced his resignation in the afternoon of the 12. Unfortunately he failed to secure the extension of the Maritime Self Defence Force's operations in the Indian Ocean. He had wanted to pass amendments to the Act on Special Measures concerning the Anti-Terrorism Maritime Interdiction Operation which was not to expire until November 1.

 

Following President Abe’s resignation, Taro Aso and Yasuo Fukuda ran for the Presidency.  The candidate Fukuda gained the majority and became the 22nd President of the LDP on September 23.  

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