Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has gambled his career by calling snap elections to the Lower House of the Japanese Diet in late-October. The term of the House would have ordinarily lasted another year, but he clearly senses a turn in the popular breeze in his favour. Whether the electorate will vindicate his judgment, however, may well depend on the grit and tenacity of his challenger, Tokyo’s first woman Governor, Yuriko Koike.
The former television anchor achieved an unprecedented feat last year by taking the city’s top job, trouncing the official nominee of Mr. Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party in a triangular race. Ever since, Ms. Koike, who had served briefly as defence minister during Mr. Abe’s first term in 2006-07, has become accustomed to thriving in a crisis. In a repeat of her growing penchant to take on a male-dominated establishment, Ms. Koike floated a local party earlier this year, which spectacularly captured the Tokyo city assembly in July. Now, following the surprise announcement of polls to the Lower House of the Diet, she has launched the Party of Hope, drawing a number of parliamentarians from across the spectrum, including the ruling camp. She has even pledged that her new party would field candidates across the country. In fact, Ms. Koike has been quick to exploit Mr. Abe’s decision to seek a fresh mandate more than a year in advance as merely a device to shore up power.
But the Tokyo Governor, in turn, would also be mindful of criticism that she is abandoning her current responsibilities with the plunge into national politics. This is especially so given the coming Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2020, and any impression that she is abdicating the preparatory work could be damaging. Meanwhile, the divided and demoralised opposition Democratic Party, in the midst of a leadership crisis, could work to project Mr. Abe as a symbol of relative stability especially at a time when the North Korean crisis shows no sign of abating. His own personal ratings have also seen a remarkable revival, after allegations of his links to controversial transactions in a land deal had led to a significant dip in opinion polls. The Prime Minister still has his share of challenges to contend with. A new anti-conspiracy legislation to combat terrorism was criticised for lack of public scrutiny and for incorporating intrusive provisions on individual privacy and free speech. Even if he can win a re-election, regaining the current two-thirds majority for his party is far from certain. Such a tally is critical for Mr. Abe to legislate the controversial revision to Japan’s pacifist constitution, over which he has staked his reputation. In substantial terms, though, voters may have little to choose between the conservative nationalist stances advocated by Mr. Abe and Ms. Koike.
Gamble: take risky action in the hope of a desired result.
Example: The British could only gamble that something would turn up
Synonyms: take a chance, take a risk, stick one’s neck out, go out on a limb
Breeze: a thing that is easy to do or accomplish.
Example: Traveling through London was a breeze
Synonyms: easy task, child’s play, nothing, piece of cake
Vindicate: clear (someone) of blame or suspicion.
Example: Hospital staff were vindicated by the inquest verdict
Synonyms: acquit, clear, absolve, exonerate, discharge, liberate, free
Grit: courage and resolve; strength of character.
Example: He displayed the true grit of the navy pilot
Synonyms: courage, bravery, pluck, mettle, backbone, spirit, strength of character
Tenacity: the quality or fact of being able to grip something firmly; grip.
Example: The sheer tenacity of the limpet
Synonyms: persistence, determination, perseverance, doggedness
Unprecedented: never done or known before.
Example: The government took the unprecedented step of releasing confidential correspondence
Synonyms: unheard of, unknown, new, novel, groundbreaking, revolutionary
Trounce: defeat heavily in a contest.
Example: The Knicks trounced the Rockets on Sunday
Synonyms: defeat convincingly, rout, crush, overwhelm, hammer
Accustom: customary or usual.
Example: His accustomed route
Synonyms: customary, usual, normal, habitual, regular, routine
Thriving: grow or develop well or vigorously.
Example: The new baby thrived
Penchant: a strong or habitual liking for something or tendency to do something.
Example: He has a penchant for adopting stray dogs
Synonyms: liking, fondness, preference, taste, relish, appetite
Plunge: push or thrust quickly.
Example: He plunged his hands into his pockets
Synonyms: thrust, jab, stab, sink, stick, ram, drive
Abdicate: renounce one’s throne.
Example: In 1918 Kaiser Wilhelm abdicated as German emperor
Synonyms: resign, retire, stand down, step down, bow out
Midst: the middle point or part.
Example: To be plopped in the river’s midst , in a canoe, on a spectacular day, is tranquilizing.
Synonyms: middle, center, heart, core, midpoint, kernel
Revival: an improvement in the condition or strength of something.
Example: A revival in the fortunes of the party
Synonyms: improvement, recovery, rallying, picking up, amelioration
Contend: assert something as a position in an argument.
Example: He contends that the judge was wrong
Synonyms: assert, maintain, hold, claim, argue, insist, state
Scrutiny: critical observation or examination.
Example: Every aspect of local government was placed under scrutiny
Synonyms: examination, inspection, survey, study, perusal, investigation
Pacifist: a person who believes that war and violence are unjustifiable.
Example: She was a committed pacifist all her life
Synonyms: peace-lover, conscientious objector, passive resister