The 総理 (souri) goes slowly, and pays for it

I spoke earlier today about Abe Shinzo running into trouble with LDP members of the Upper House; now the FT reports that a number of surveys by Japanese newspapers have shown substantial drops in Abe’s popularity. Even Yomiuri — the leading conservative daily — registered a major fall in his public support.

The article notes, “Survey respondents cited Mr Abe’s lack of leadership and failure to communicate his policy objectives more effectively as key reasons for their disenchantment with the government.”

During the LDP leadership campaign and in the early days of Abe’s premiership, the biggest concern was Abe’s vagueness — his speeches and his campaign book were long on vision and ideal, short on actual policy ideas. Observers and the public gave him the benefit of the doubt, presuming that sooner or later he would get around to outlining a detailed agenda. He has only done so in small doses, and timidly, and meanwhile he has failed to control his cabinet and his party’s executive.

What’s surprising is how patient the Japanese public has been with Abe’s leadership failings. The honeymoon is over, and it’s getting harder to see Abe as the heir to Koizumi. Increasingly Abe looks like George H.W. Bush to Koizumi’s Reagan: aloof, pragmatic to a fault on policy, and lacking the flair that endeared his predecessor to the voting public.

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