Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was shot in Nara City Friday morning while making a stump speech preceding this weekend’s upper house election, which is set for Sunday, July 10. There are one hundred twenty-five open seats.
These are the major issues.
As a global economic slowdown affects Japan’s already slow economic recovery, the ruling party of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is expected to make gains that will enable his government to move forward on key issues, including ramping up Japan’s military defenses to play a greater role in Asia, tackling inflation, and restarting nuclear reactors that have been shut down since the disaster at Fukushima.
Kishida succeeded Shinzo Abe, the former Prime Minister.
This election is a moment where Japan’s leadership hopes to gain the power to authorize the country to raise annual military spending to two percent of GDP, which will put the country on par with the target defense budget levels of NATO countries. The country’s defense budget was around $48 billion USD in 2022, just under a quarter of China’s $229 billion USD defense budget. A two percent of GDP defense spending rate, given Japan’s $5 trillion USD economy, would effectively double defense spending to around $100 billion USD per year, significantly closing the gap with China.
During a February 2022 television appearance, Abe “floated the possibility of hosting U.S. nuclear weapons in Japan” and said that the United States needed to “abandon this ambiguity strategy” regarding Taiwan.
The people of Taiwan share our universal values, so I think the U.S. should firmly abandon its ambiguity,” he said.
Abe added that “a Taiwan contingency is a Japan contingency,”
In Japan, there is mention of reconsidering Article 9 in the Constitution that was put in place after World War II. This article refers to the US’s decision to renounce war due the increasing tensions within Asia. This is huge news for the Japanese as well as other Asian nations, who, like China, do not forget the legacy of 500 years of Imperial Japan which led to Article 9 being imposed on the nation.
The most passionate domestic issue is inflation. Japanese people have experienced long periods of stable ages. The long-term flat ages have made Japanese voters sensitive to how the global rise in commodity prices has impacted their ability afford basic necessities. COVID-19, the ongoing pandemic that has caused many cases throughout the country, is further complicating the problem and keeping the economy from reopening.
Kishida’s government hopes to have a stronger hand to implement subsidies to oil and other industries to help ease consumer prices. This controversial policy requires that the government enter debt financing programs through bonds. The Bank of Japan will select a new governor, which will determine the fiscal policy of Japan as it attempts to curb inflation.
Main Street Japan’s disgruntled Japanese citizens are becoming vocal supporters of angry farmers. Japanese farmers have depended heavily on grain imports to provide food for their animals. Due to rising feed corn costs, farmers have begun substituting rice for their cattle. Japan has increased coverage of their passion as a result of difficulties in the supply chain globally and high inflation.
Nuclear power will be the last major issue. Japan’s dependence on LPG (liquid petroleum gas) is a major issue. This commodity is rapidly becoming more expensive. Only 10 of Japan’s 54 nuclear power facilities have been in operation since the Fukushima incident, and the question of the need for affordable electricity versus the reluctance to re-engage the nuclear genie is very much part of the upcoming election’s debate.