Abe rallies conservative base amid speculation over comeback

Japan Times -- May 10
When health issues forced him to resign as prime minister late last August, it appeared that Shinzo Abe’s reign at the top was over.

But more than eight months later, Abe says his health is better as he moves to re-establish his power base among younger Liberal Democratic Party conservatives who share his long-cherished goal of constitutional revision.

However, with past scandals involving Abe still making headlines and party presidential and general elections set for later this year, he could find any attempt to expand his influence within the party limited to close allies and rejected by an LDP rank-and-file more focused on public concerns over the coronavirus pandemic than on ideological issues.

Last month, former Defense Minister Tomomi Inada, an Abe ally noted for her right-wing views, announced that an LDP group of conservative politicians she heads had named Abe as their adviser.

”I asked Abe to serve as adviser because I thought this was the most appropriate way to rebuild the LDP’s conservatism,” Inada told reporters on April 8 in announcing the appointment.

Four days later, Abe and Inada teamed up again at the launch of a new Diet members’ league pushing for Japan to build nuclear power plants or replace aging ones. Inada, who hails from Fukui Prefecture, home to 11 commercial reactors — the largest concentration in Japan — was named the league chairman. Abe, in turn, became its adviser. While not all of the league members may share Abe’s philosophy, the move will allow both Inada and Abe to increase their visibility within the party.

“The LDP is a conservative party. I want you all to have the spirit to act if the party leadership is going in a different direction,” Abe told Inada’s conservative group on April 22.

Such actions and statements over the course of a several weeks have fueled speculation as to his motives. Is Abe attempting to lay the groundwork for a run at the party presidency, and thus a return to the Prime Minister’s Office, when the presidential race is held in September?

- Japan Times