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In 2016, the Shinzo Abe administration has achieved much in its diplomacy. In May this year, Japan hosted the 2016 G7 Summit in Ise-Shima, after which US President Barack Obama made a historic visit to Hiroshima. On the back of these two diplomatic achievements, Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) won a Senate election, meaning that representatives who are keen to revise the constitution occupy two-thirds of the seats in the House of Councillors and House of Representatives. |
Besides, after high-level visits from countries such as India and Russia to Japan, Abe's public support is riding at around 50 percent. He is now the country's fourth longest-serving Japanese leader of the postwar era. Given the stability of the Abe regime and his public support, Japan's political situation claims our attention.
Whether Abe will dissolve the lower house is most worthy of attention. According to Japan's constitution, the prime minister is elected by congress, and the final result will be determined by the lower house if inconsistent results occur in the two houses. The current term of the lower house will end in 2018.
Meanwhile, the LDP voted to extend the term limits for the party's presidency from six years over two terms to nine years over three. Abe's term as party leader will end by September 2018, but the way is open for him to win a third term. Therefore, if Abe dissolves the lower house next year, the ruling party will be able to beat all opposition parties, obtain an absolute majority of seats and ensure the extension of Abe's term of office to 2021.
Since the LDP has a majority of seats in congress, it is worth noting whether Abe will launch an agenda to revise the constitution in 2017.
In August, Japanese Emperor Akihito expressed his desire to abdicate the throne during his lifetime in a television address. Focusing on this issue, an advisory panel organized by the Japanese government has discussed this several times, and will finalize its recommendations by mid-January next year.
In view of Akihito's special status and influence in Japan, the special bill for the emperor's "abdication" is expected to be the main focus during the ordinary session of the National Diet from late January to June, and will take up a lot of time.
During the session, the Japanese government's budget proposals will also be reviewed. So launching the constitutional revision agenda will be difficult in the first half of the year, which may begin after the passage of the bill related to the emperor.
Once the agenda starts, it will definitely affect Abe's cabinet and the LDP's public support, and exert negative impacts on peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region. Therefore, it is possible that Abe will open the agenda after dissolving the lower house.
In foreign affairs, Japan-US relations during the Donald Trump administration deserve attention. In the 2016 presidential election, Trump showed a friendlier attitude toward Russia. It is expected that US-Russian relations will improve in the future.
Although Trump has provoked China on Twitter several times, it may be just a means to pave the way for negotiations for future Sino-US relations. As a businessman-turned president, Trump's future policy toward China will focus more on pragmatism than on ideology. As a result, US-Russian and Sino-US relations will be improved and deepened, reducing Japan's importance for the US.
In addition to Japan-US relations, Sino-Japanese relations will also be an important point for the Abe administration in 2017, as next year sees the 45th anniversary of the normalization of China-Japan diplomatic ties. On November 30, foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang, in a regular press conference, said that China attached great importance to Sino-Japanese-South Korean cooperation and the Chinese side is willing to work alongside Japan and South Korea. This shows that Sino-Japanese relations have rebounded. Therefore, during the upcoming 45th anniversary, whether Abe can actively repair bilateral relations will draw great attention from the people of the two countries.