Evolution of the Core Executive under Prime Minister Abe’s Government in Japan

Evolution of the Core Executive under Prime Minister Abe’s Government in Japan (project manager: prof. Karol Żakowski)


The aim of this project is to examine power shifts and decision-making reforms in Japan’s government under the second Abe administration. Analysis will cover the period from reassuming office by Prime Minister Abe Shinzō in December 2012 to the expected end of his tenure as Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) president in September 2018. Abe is the first Japanese prime minister since Koizumi Jun’ichirō (2001-2006) who managed to remain in office for two consecutive terms. Furthermore, he has prospects to be elected for the third term and become the longest-serving head of government in the history of Japan. For that reason, his tenure provides a rare opportunity for examining the impact of prolonged premiership on decision-making patterns.


Relying on the model of core executive, the principal investigator argues that changes both in official institutional arrangements and unofficial decision-making practices on the governmental and ruling party levels since December 2012 enabled the prime minister to exert stronger leadership than before. Analysis will be conducted through the lenses of the gradual institutional change theory. On the contrary to the DPJ administration’s failed decision-making reforms in 2009-2012, the scope of institutional changes under the second Abe Cabinet has been adapted to the strength of veto players: ministerial bureaucrats and ruling party backbenchers. The reforms have been implemented through taking full advantage of pre-existing structures rather than abruptly replacing them with new ones. Exploitation of long-term power shifts in the government, supplemented with gradual creation of new decision-making bodies (especially the National Security Council and the Cabinet Bureau of Personnel Affairs) led to enhancement of coordination capabilities by the core executive. Within the core executive, in turn, it is the Cabinet Secretariat that became a crucial decision-making centre. The project will evaluate the long-term impact of these changes on the Japanese political system.