Japanese Politics

01/10/2006 03:43 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

(Tokyo) Japanese politics is always unpredictable, but you can put this one in the bank: Shinzo Abe will be the next Prime Minister of Japan after the current prime minister Junichi Koizumi reaches the end of his term. Abe is an extraordinarily contoversial figure who has suggested that the Japanese constitution may need to be re-written because it was imposed on Japan by the United States. Nonsense says my friend Kazumasa Okajima, a member of parliament who was thrown out of power in a recent election and is mounting his comeback.

Okajima and others say America took great care to work with the Japanese in a very difficult post World War II environment to craft a constitution that took into account Japan's democratic history and that it is fine the way it is. The debate centers around the pacifist nature of the constitution which forbids Japan from having a military. Of course it does have one, but it's called a "self-defense force." Abe has also raised the hackles of his Asian neighbors with his assertion that Japan may be able to maintain tactical nuclear weapons so long as they were for a defensive purpose.

Ordinarily Abe's chances of revising the constitution would be slim to none, but he follows in the footsteps of Koizumi, an extraordinarily powerful prime minister who managed to push through the privatization of the Japanese post office after dissolving parliament, calling for new elections and putting forward a slate of candidates dubbed "the assasins" who took out candidates like Okajima who opposed his policies.

Abe may moderate once he becomes Prime Minister as often happens with controversial candidates, but he may try to make good on his belief that the constitution needs revision.