Sanae Takaichi could become Japan's first female PM
When the Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced his resignation last week, the western media barely looked up.
Which is odd, because Japan is still the world’s third biggest economy — and absolutely essential to any hope of the free world defending itself without relying on America alone.
After just one year in office, Suga will be gone by the end of the month. The race to replace him as leader of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) — and therefore PM — is on.
Among the declared candidates is Sanae Takaichi — who would be Japan’s first female Prime Minister. Japan has been described as a “democracy without women” — so this would be breaking the mould. Just the fact that she’s running with such heavyweight backing — including that of Shinzo Abe, a powerful former Prime Minister — represents a breakthrough.
However, if she is elected, western liberals might want to pause before cheering too loudly. Takaichi’s views are very firmly on the Right of the LDP (who aren’t to be confused with our own dear Liberal Democrats).
According to reports she is affiliated with Nippon Kaigi — a nationalist grouping. She is among a number of cabinet ministers who have visited the Yasukuni Shrine — controversial because the shrine’s Book of Souls contains the names of convicted war criminals.
In 2016, in her position as internal affairs minister, she caused a stir when she suggested that broadcasters who don’t heed official warnings about fairness could be taken off air.
To cap it all, she is reported to be an admirer of Margaret Thatcher — which will condemn her in the eyes of western progressives if nothing else does.
That said, Shinzo Abe — with whom she is ideologically and politically aligned — was Prime Minister from 2012 to 2020 without his own highly conservative views becoming much of an issue in the West. He also succeeded in re-establishing the LDP as the near-permanent party of government. But again this was met with a shrug of the shoulders.
There’s an odd phenomenon in which western liberals are less upset about illiberalism in countries perceived to be less western. One only has to compare the four-year freak-out at Donald Trump in America to the reaction to Xi Jinping’s repressive policies in China to see how this works. There is an objective measure of how much there is to be concerned about in a country and a subjective measure of how much western liberal opinion cares — and rarely much correlation between the two.