Shinzo Abe: Japan’s longest serving prime minister

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Japan’s former prime minister Shinzo Abe died on Friday after he was shot while delivering a campaign speech in the western city of Nara, Japan’s state broadcaster reported.

The 67-year-old was the country’s longest-serving prime minister, having served two separate stretches in the post.

Mr Abe resigned in 2020, cutting his tenure short a year and a month before it was due to end in September 2021.

Describing his decision as “gut-wrenching”, Mr Abe said a chronic illness which had been controlled with treatment had resurfaced. He had ulcerative colitis since he was a teenager.

Mr Abe remained an important figure in the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) after stepping down, reported NHK, and on Friday morning was out campaigning ahead of Sunday’s upper house parliamentary elections when the shooting took place.

Prior to his decision to step down from the country’s top job, Mr Abe had become the country’s longest-serving prime minister by consecutive days in office, overtaking the record set by his great uncle Eisaku Sato by just four days.

Mr Sato had served for 2,798 days from 1964 to 1972 while Mr Abe’s days in office numbered to 2,803.

Mr Abe came from a family of a long line of politicians who have served in Japan’s governments over the years.

His grandfather Kishi Nobusuke was the country’s prime minister between 1957 and 1960. His father Shintaro Abe served as foreign minister between 1982 and 1986.

Mr Abe was first elected to parliament in 1993 when he became a member of the House of Representatives. He was subsequently reelected in seven consecutive polls.

In 1999, he was appointed Trustee in the Committee on Health and Welfare as well as the director of the social affairs division of his party, the LDP.

The following year, he was appointed deputy chief cabinet secretary in prime minister Yoshiro Mori’s cabinet.

He retained the post under the second Mori cabinet and was reappointed to the post in 2001, 2002 and 2005 in the Junichiro Koizumi cabinet.

In 2003, he became the secretary general of the LDP and in 2004, he was appointed the party’s acting secretary general and chairman of its Reform Promotion Headquarters.

In 2006, he was elected prime minister for the first time, but resigned a year later, citing health concerns.

In 2012, he clinched the top job again after a resounding victory in Japan’s general election, giving him one of the strongest political mandates for a Japanese leader in years.

Mr Abe came to be known for his “Abenomics” policy aimed at reinvigorating the country’s economy through a mix of fiscal stimulus, structural reforms and monetary easing.

As prime minister, Mr Abe was also known for his shrewd diplomacy.

His supporters say his legacy was building a stronger relationship between the US and Japan and bolstering Japan’s defence capacities.

He led a host of new strategic partnerships with India and Australia as well as defence agreements with southeast Asian countries along with bilateral foreign and defence partnerships with the UK and France, reported BBC News.

Despite geostrategic threats from China, Mr Abe pursued cooperation with president Xi Jinping as well.

In the last year of his tenure as prime minister, Mr Abe’s approval ratings plummeted due to a number of reasons, including an unpopular increase in sales tax, which he had earlier postponed twice, and a series of corruption scandals.

He also delivered only partially on the promise of “womenomics” and faced criticism for his handling of the delay in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics because of the Covid pandemic.

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