15:30-16:30, Wednesday, July 3, 2013
Secretary-General, Liberal Democratic Party
The upcoming Upper House election will be a key test of whether the Japanese public supports the government led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his economic policies (dubbed as 'Abenomics').
Abe's high approval rates, which hover around 60 percent, and the Liberal Democratic Party's landslide victory in the recent Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly election underscore that the public has great expectations of political stability and also of Abe's 'three arrows'- unorthodox monetary easing and flexible fiscal spending together with a growth strategy which is yet to be implemented.
What is benefiting the LDP also is that there are no strong political opponents as various opposition parties struggle to distinguish themselves from the LDP, or seem unable to offer workable counter proposals and policies.
Even so, LDP Secretary General Shigeru Ishiba remains cautious over prospects for the election as the party still remembers its crushing defeat in the 2009 election. Ishiba has been saying that the LDP's recent victories do not mean that the party has regained trust yet, as the number of the votes it receives has not increased dramatically.
Even if the party sweeps the election again this time, the government is saddled with a host of issues such as the planned hike in Japan's consumption tax and negotiations over Japan's proposed entry into the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact - an issue over which the LDP remains deeply divided.
Domestic and international opinion is meanwhile anxious to see whether or not Abe will continue to prioritize economic policies over his somewhat right-leaning political agenda, such as the revision of Japan's pacifist Constitution.
Ishiba will talk about the achievements of the LDP-New Komeito government since it returned to power last December and about challenges following the Upper House election. What will be the coalition government's agenda, and how will Abe and the LDP be able to help Japan regain its confidence and to become what Abe calls a "proud country"?
Shigeru Ishiba is a ninth term House of Representative lawmaker of the LDP and hails from Tottori prefecture. He became LDP secretary general after he lost to Abe in the LDP presidential run-off election last year. He is also known as a prominent expert on defense and security issues and served as head of the former Defense Agency under former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi in 2002.