Briefing / Global
Future leaders of Japan, the Lisbon Treaty anniversary and how spooks are coming out of the shadows.
Ones to watch
JAPAN — LEADERSHIP
Shinzo Abe of the Liberal Democratic party (ldp) has become Japan’s longest-serving prime minister – but has ruled out runningfor a fourth time when his current term ends in September 2021. Though there is no clear frontrunner to succeed Abe as prime minister, these figures could emerge as candidates.
Environment minister Koizumi, aged 38, is the youngest member of Abe’s cabinet and is often talked about as a future PM. The telegenic son of former PM Junichiro Koizumi was elected to the lower house in 2009. Koizumi, who speaks fluent English and has a master’s degree in political science from Columbia University in New York, worked as a researcher at the Center for Strategic and International Studies think-tank in Washington. Since announcing in August that his wife, TV news presenter Christel Takigawa, is pregnant, Koizumi has become part of another debate: will he set an example and take paternity leave?
Former defence minister and national legislator Koike is Tokyo’s first female governor, having been elected in 2016 after leaving the ldp and running as an independent. She launched Tomin First no Kai (Tokyoites First party), now the biggest faction in the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly. As governor, Koike, fluent in Arabic and English, has promoted more women to managerial positions, led the controversial relocation of Tokyo’s fish market, halted the practice of culling unwanted cats and dogs and overseen preparations for the 2020 Olympics.
As chief cabinet secretary, Suga is the government’s top spokesperson and one of Abe’s closest advisers. He had his moment of fame in 2019 when he unveiled the name of the new imperial era, Reiwa. Suga’s other roles – mitigating the impact of US forces in Okinawa and resolving the issue of Japanese nationals abducted by North Korea – give him a high profile and his predecessors have gone on to become prime minister. But whether he can mobilise enough support to succeed Abe remains to be seen.
Treaty for our times
EUROPE — POLICY
When signed in December 2009 the EU’s Treaty of Lisbon gave the union the capacity to enlarge. But 10 years on it’s almost certain to get smaller (goodbye, UK). Is it time for a new treaty that can respond better to the less breezy 2020s? Possible reforms to date remain vague: French president Emmanuel Macron says the EU house can’t be enlarged without renovation, while Austria’s Sebastian Kurz demands “generational” reform. More clues will come from newcomers Ursula von der Leyen at the European Commission and Christine Lagarde at the European Central Bank. Both realise the gravity of the moment – but keeping the union intact will take more than words.
The big reveal
UK — INTELLIGENCE
There are few more mythologised organisations in the UK than Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), which furnishes signals intelligence to the UK’s government and military. Its main base is a huge frisbee-shaped edifice in Cheltenham but its existence wasn’t officially admitted until the early 1990s. However, 2019 was the centenary of its inception following the First World War, and the UK’s most secretive spooks have undertaken what has been, relatively speaking, a publicity blitz. Here’s what gchq has been doing.
Opening its first branch in a city centre: Manchester’s Albert Square facility will employ 1,000 staff. gchq chose the site for its proximity to the city’s tech sector as well as its diverse and student-heavy population – a promising source of recruits.
Staging an exhibition at London’s Science Museum: Top Secret: From Ciphers To Cyber Security showing such artefacts as Margaret Thatcher’s hotline phone and a wartime encryption machine.
Acknowledging it had operated a secret site on Palmer Street in London for 66 years: this wasn’t, in truth, a big reveal as gchq made the admission to coincide with the facility being closed... or was it?