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Japan’s politics will likely enter the New Years in a highly enervated state. Effort to sell the Official Secrets Act floundered, requiring humiliating negotiations with the opposition ending in a dictatorial denouement to screams of protest. The Supreme Court declared the map of electoral districts crafted to defeat constitutional challenge unfair -- guaranteeing continued strife over the issue. Meanwhile, another set of cases challenging the constitutionality of the House of Councillors election wend their way to the Supreme Court.
Relations with China and South Korea are at their lowest ebb in memory, with China pursuing what seems an inexorable escalation toward open conflict. Should the Prime Minister make good on hints in the direction of a visit to Yasukuni, the publics of South Korea and China will erupt. As for a revival of the economy, median incomes need to rise, meaning the corporate sector has to be more adventurous and generous. For international investors to continue to have faith in Abenomics, they must see meaningful Third Arrow structural reforms. With the Administration’s recent all-consuming focus on security, the economic program seems to have been relegated to the back burner.
The Abe Administration has nevertheless had a remarkable run of good fortune and smart decisions. It has reason to feel proud of itself and its leaders still exude a stunning sense of confidence.
What are the Abe Cabinet’s and ruling party’s plans for 2014? Will they have a have the political momentum and maintain the internal cohesion necessary to achieve them in a meaningful way?