Abe’s future has come under intense speculation amid a drip-feed of scandals that have prompted a series of public apologies and driven his poll numbers to near record lows.
When Shinzo Abe resigned as Japanese prime minister 11 years ago it came out of nowhere, two days after a major policy speech. Now, Tokyo is wondering if he’ll shock the government again.
Abe’s future has come under intense speculation amid a drip-feed of scandals that have prompted a series of public apologies and driven his poll numbers to near record lows. Critics within his Liberal Democratic Party are going public ahead of a scheduled vote on the party leadership in September, while his former mentor, ex-premier Junichiro Koizumi, predicted in an interview with the Shukan Asahi magazine that Abe would step down in June.
The prime minister’s travails just six months after leading the LDP to a landslide win are casting doubt on a policy agenda that has over the past five years bolstered Japan’s military and attracted investors with a weaker yen. While LDP would be expected to fend off any election challenge by an opposition that has struggled to unite, Abe’s departure could prompt policy confusion as potential contenders in his own party horse-trade for support.
“He’s in the danger zone,” said Gerald Curtis, an emeritus professor at Columbia University and author of several books on Japanese politics. “No one in the LDP wants to go down with the Abe ship, but the trouble is they don’t know who they want to replace him as captain.”
A weakened Abe heads to Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida on Tuesday to discuss the U. S. president’s surprise decisions to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and levy tariffs on Japanese steel and aluminum exports. While the visit could provide welcome distraction from the scandals, it may be harder than before to persuade the public that Abe’s charm offensive with Trump is paying off.
The yen gained against the dollar Monday, after some 50,000 anti-Abe protesters rallied on the weekend outside parliament and new polls showed Abe’s support levels approaching lows that have led past prime ministers to resign.

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