Japan LDP leadership battle: Sanae Takaichi and nationalism

Japan LDP leadership battle: Sanae Takaichi and nationalism

Kanako Mita and Sawako Utsumi

Modern Tokyo Times

The stepping down of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga means that an internal battle within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) is ongoing. Several candidates are in the running. Therefore, the factional angle will come into play like usual.

However, with Sanae Takaichi aiming to become the first female leader of Japan, a gender shift might emerge in the future – similar to two elected female prime ministers in the United Kingdom. Yet, it seems that little else will change apart from a more nationalist leader emerging if Takaichi sticks to her pledges.

She strongly admires Shinzo Abe, the former leader of Japan, concerning economics and his nationalist views. However, she promises a stronger nationalist tilt if elected. Takaichi is known to support the continuation of Abe’s economic goals. Albeit, with the new terminology belonging to her name.

Abe contained his nationalist tendencies by seeking accommodation with China and the Russian Federation when possible. If territorial tensions emerged between China and Japan, then Abe remained firm while seeking a solution to the situation.

Lee Jay Walker says, “However, with Takaichi promising to visit the Yasukuni Shrine (Tokyo) if elected the leader of Japan, she might open a can of worms that will backfire regionally. Also, with more important issues at stake, her pledge highlights her nationalist tendencies despite doing Japan a disservice. After all, for other nations in Northeast Asia – and further afield – the Yasukuni Shrine also memorializes Class-A-War criminals. Therefore, the region doesn’t need petty nationalism given the ongoing distrust that exists.”

Takaichi also promises a new Constitution for Japan with aspects being aimed at current military constraints. Hence, a rightist shift – that is already being seen in the current government – looks set to continue to a higher level if she becomes the next leader of the LDP. This notably applies to anti-China statements and encouraging America to contain the political elites in Beijing.

Takaichi also vows to pass legislation so that the military of Japan can enact a pre-emptive strike.

However, with ordinary people being more worried about the economic convulsions of the coronavirus (Covid-19) crisis, the pension system, welfare reforms to focus on the working poor and struggling pensioners, and so forth; her focus on a rightist approach seems far from the majority of people in Japan.

Yet, Takaichi knows that history dictates that the next leader of the LDP usually governs the country. Therefore, she is hoping that the endorsement of Abe will give her a greater chance to become the first Japanese female leader of the country.


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