Prime Minister Shinzo Abe won comfortable re-election as leader of his ruling party Thursday, setting him on course to become Japan’s longest-serving premier and realise his dream of reforming the constitution.
The 63-year-old conservative secured 553 votes against 254 won by former defence minister Shigeru Ishiba, a hawkish self-confessed “military geek”, in a two-horse race for leader of the Liberal Democratic Party.
The win effectively hands Abe three more years as PM, giving him the chance of breaking the record for the nation’s longest-serving premiership held by Taro Katsura, a revered politician who served three times between 1901 and 1913.
To loud cheers of “banzai” — the Japanese equivalent of “three cheers” — from party members, a grinning Abe said: “The battle is over. Let’s build a new Japan by joining hands and uniting.”
Shinichi Nishikawa, professor of politics at Meiji University in Tokyo, told AFP that the vote was effectively a referendum on Abe’s record that he successfully negotiated.