Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has made history by becoming the country’s longest-serving political leader.
Abe broke the record this week by serving 2,887 days in office. The next longest-serving leader was Taro Katsura. He led Japan three different times between 1901 and 1913.
The 65-year-old Abe is also the second-longest-serving leader of the Group of Seven major economies. Only German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in office since 2005, has served longer.
Abe’s third term is expected to end in September 2021. He has said he does not plan to seek a fourth term. Abe’s first term lasted just one year from 2006 to 2007. He returned to office in 2012 and has since led his ruling coalition to six national election victories.
Abe spoke to reporters about reaching the new record. “Day by day, I have made efforts to achieve the policies that I have promised,” he said. “And because of these daily efforts I’m here to mark this day.”
Abe’s main goals in office have centered on attempts to strengthen Japan’s economy and defense. He has long called for a constitutional change to permit the creation of a full Japanese military force. That change has not happened.
Abe seeks to amend the constitution’s Article 9, which was added after Japan was defeated in World War II. The article states that the country surrenders its right to establish armed forces for war.
Any constitutional change must win the approval of two-thirds of both houses of parliament, plus a majority in a national referendum. Abe’s campaign has struggled to get support among a public more concerned with economic issues and the country’s social security system.
The long-serving prime minister has become identified with “Abenomics,” a set of policies aimed at speeding up economic growth. Abe’s plan for the government to buy securities and spend more while keeping interest rates low has created growth – but it has been slower than promised.
Speaking to reporters, Abe repeated his plans to spend his remaining time in office trying to improve the economy, serve Japan’s aging population and seek the constitutional change.
Abe has survived several scandals, including his own and other ones involving government ministers. The most recent involved his yearly cherry blossom viewing party. Abe has been accused of using taxpayer money to hold a gathering of political supporters the night before the party.
I’m Bryan Lynn.
Bryan Lynn wrote this story for VOA Learning English, based on reports from The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse. Mario Ritter, Jr. was the editor.
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Words in This Story
referendum – n. an election in which people in an area vote on a specific issue
scandal – n. an occurrence in which people are shocked and upset because of behavior that is morally or legally wrong