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Abe vows to stay the course in third term as prime minister

by

Staff Writer

Shinzo Abe vowed Wednesday to continue pursuing his economic, diplomatic and security policies after Diet members re-elected him to a third term as prime minister.

Abe also said he had gained strong support from the public in December’s snap general election.

During the campaign, he had billed the Lower House election as a referendum on his “Abenomics” policies and barely touched on controversial subjects such as the planned submission of bills to loosen constraints on the Self-Defense Forces. By contrast, on Wednesday he said the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s landslide victory means the public support all of his policies.

“Pulling out of deflation, social security reform and rebuilding diplomacy and security all have difficult roads ahead of them. But I am pouring all my heart, mind and strength to push forward the drastic reform,” Abe said during a news conference on Wednesday night.

“It’s the new challenge. Of course, there are wide gaps between pros and cons, and there is strong resistance,” he said. “But in the Lower House election, the public firmly backed me up (saying) I should go down this road.”

Abe also said that his administration will focus on putting an end to over 15 years of grinding deflation through Abenomics — a combination of aggressive monetary easing, more fiscal spending and growth-oriented structural reforms — that he says will raise Japan’s long-term growth potential.

“To strengthen the success of Abenomics is the biggest issue (of my administration),” Abe said.

He also said that while investing efforts to gain the public’s understanding, he will also seek to pass controversial bills in the next ordinary Diet session, that will begin in January, to allow the Self-Defense Forces to exercise collective self-defense.

By the end of this week, the new Cabinet is expected to approve a more than ¥3 trillion emergency stimulus package to shore up sluggish consumer spending. The Cabinet is also scheduled to draft a budget in January for fiscal 2015.

Asked about his longtime goal of revising the Constitution, Abe said he will pursue efforts to deepen the public’s understanding on the matter.

“I believe I can say that the revision of the Constitution is a historical challenge. It’s not that easy,” he said.

Revising the Constitution requires a two-thirds majority vote in both the Lower House and the Upper House. It then needs to be ratified by a majority of voters in a national referendum.

Abe was re-elected as prime minister earlier in the day during a special Diet session. He then moved to reappoint all members of his previous Cabinet except for scandal-tainted Defense Minister Akinori Eto, who was replaced by former Defense Agency chief Gen Nakatani.

With a landslide election victory on Dec. 14, Abe could remain prime minister for up to four more years until the next Lower House election.