Childhood & Early Years
Shinzo Abe was born on September 21, 1954, in Tokyo, Japan. However, his registered residence is in Nagato of Yamaguchi Prefecture, where his family had lived for generations.
Shinzo’s father Shintaro Abe was the longest serving post war foreign minister of Japan and a leading member of the Liberal Democratic Party. His mother Yoko Kishi was the daughter of Nobosuke Kishi, the former Prime Minister of Japan.
Shinzo began his education at Seikei Elementary School and then attended Seikei Junior High School and Seikei Senior High School. Later, he enrolled at Seikei University to study political science and graduated from there, in 1977. After graduation, Shinzo Abe went to the United States of America to study public policy at USC Sol Price School of Public Policy in South California. However, he was there for only three semesters and returned to Japan in the beginning of 1979.
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Shinzo joined Kobe Steel in April 1979. By and by, he became an active member of Liberal Democratic Party and worked as the private secretary to the chairperson of the General Council of the party and also as the secretary to the Secretary General.
In 1982, he left Kobe Steel and joined politics full time. In the same year, he became the assistant executive to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, a post held by his father Shintaro Abe.
Shintaro Abe died in 1991. In 1993, Shinzo Abe entered the House of Representatives by winning the seat from the first district of Yamaguchi Prefecture, vacated by the death of his father. From the very beginning, he was one of the important members of the house.
In 1997, Shinzō led the ‘Japanese Society for History Textbook Reform’. He also founded the ‘Institute of Junior Assembly Members Who Think About the Outlook of Japan and History Education’ and became the bureau chief.
In 1999, Shinzo Abe became the Director of Social Affairs Division. Next from 2002 to 2003, Abe held the post of the Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary. When in 2002, North Korea admitted of abducting thirteen Japanese citizens, Abe was chosen by his government to negotiate on behalf of the families of the abductees.
Abe’s tough stance against North Korea was highly appreciated by the nation and his popularity started soaring. When in 2002, Prime Minister Koizumi Junichiro went to meet Kim Jong II, the Supreme Leader of North Korea, Abe accompanied him.
In 2003, Abe became the Secretary General of Liberal Democratic Party. In 2006, Koizumi Junichiro announced that he would step down both as a Prime Minister and LDP President. As he did not select his successor, election was held.
Abe was elected as the president of LDP on September 20, 2006. The election for the Prime Minister’s post was held six days later on 26th September. Abe won this election with a solid majority. At that time, he was only 52 years old.
As Prime Minister
On becoming Prime Minister, Abe continued with fiscal reforms started by Koizumi Junichiro. However, he took specific initiatives in balancing the budget and he preferred to achieve that by curtailing expenditure rather than by increasing tax.
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In education, he wanted to promote nationalistic views. He had all along supported such efforts. In March 2007, he tabled a bill that aimed to promote nationalism and love for the country among the children.
He also tried to maintain good relation with foreign countries and supported the country’s alliance with the United States. At the same time, he took several steps to strengthen the country’s defense. Under him, the Defense Agency was upgraded to full military status.
Abe’s popularity took a nose drive when in the middle of 2007 his government became embroiled in financial scandals. His Minister of Agriculture committed suicide as such scandal came to forefront. That the pension records of millions of citizens were mishandled also came to light and the government was criticized for its slow response.
In July 2007, for the first time in 52 years, LDP lost its majority in the upper house to a coalition led by the Democratic Party of Japan. Abe tendered his resignation on September 26, 2007. Apart from his unpopularity, ill health was another reason cited as the cause of his resignation.
After resigning from the post of the Prime Minister Abe spent a quiet time at the Diet. In 2009, election, he won from his Yamaguchi 4th district. However, LDP lost the power and Democratic Party of Japan formed the government.
On September 26, 2012, Abe was reelected as the leader of the Liberal Democratic Party by 108 to 89 votes. Some time now, ruling Democratic Party lost its majority in lower house and needed LDP’s help to pass the bills. In return, Abe and his associates demanded early poll.
Accordingly, election was held on December 16, 2012. LDP, under the leadership of Abe, won 294 seats out of 480 in the lower house. Together with New Komeito Party, Abe was able to form the government.
On December 26, 2012, Abe was formally appointed as the Prime Minister of Japan. However, LDP was in minority in the upper house and it created delay in passing the bills.
The position was rectified by the 2013 upper house election. LDP and its coalition partner New Komeito Party got majority seats and as a result Abe had control over both the houses. This gave him the opportunity to pursue his policies more vigorously.
He first established the National Security Council of Japan and announced a five year plan for military expansion. Besides, he also undertook up an ambitious economic plan. It worked well in the beginning, but from second half of 2014, Japan went into recession and Abe’s popularity dipped.
Abe then called for snap election of the lower house. It was held on December 14, 2014. Although the voter turnout was low LDP won handsomely. Abe was now free to pursue his policies. He started reinterpreting the Japanese constitution, especially, the peace clauses.
In May 2015, he introduced a bill that would make it easier for Japan to use military force in case of any external threat. The bill was passed into law in September 2015. Since its passage, Abe continues to pursue his nationalistic policies.