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What We’re Watching: Japan's ruling party leadership battle

At least three members of Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party — which has governed the country almost continuously since 1955 — will face off against embattled Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga in a leadership vote scheduled for September 29. Since taking office a year ago after the health-related retirement of his old boss Shinzo Abe, Suga's approval rating has plunged due to his haphazard pandemic response, a series of LDP political scandals, and his unpopular decision to host the Tokyo Olympics amid COVID. Now, the PM will face tough challenges from Fumio Kishida, a party heavyweight who lost the LDP presidency to Suga last year; former LDP policy chief Hakuban Shimomura; and Sanae Takaichi, a hawkish former interior minister who wants to become the first woman PM of Japan, a country that has a dismal record of women's participation in politics. Suga has one thing going for him, though: he reportedly still has the support of Abe, who carries enormous sway within the party.

What We're Watching: Suga's post-Olympics approval, Taliban take capitals, Mozambique and Rwanda vs jihadists, US offers Brazil NATO partnership

Suga's collapsing popularity: For the past 18 months, debate within Japan and around the world has raged over whether Japan could and should stage the Olympic Games amid a pandemic. For better and for worse, the Games were held and are now closed. So, what's the political fallout for Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who has governed in a state of near-constant crisis, and for his government? The good news for them is that a new poll from Asahi Shimbun, released last weekend, found that 56 percent said it was a good idea to hold the Games, and just 32 percent said it was a mistake. The bad news is that approval for Suga's government has fallen to just 28 percent, the lowest of his time in office. A slow vaccination rollout continues to cost him.This fall, Suga's Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) will decide when to hold both its party leadership race and the next national general election. The LDP will likely remain in power, but Suga's future is now very much in doubt.

Taliban take key capitals: As the US continues to withdraw forces from Afghanistan, the Taliban are overrunning ever-wider swaths of territory, including urban areas that they haven't controlled in decades. Over this past weekend alone, the jihadist insurgents swept through no fewer than six provincial capitals, including the strategically important northern city of Kunduz. The US has mounted fresh airstrikes — including with a few old B-52s — to help the beleaguered Afghan security forces hold the line, but with that support reportedly scheduled to stop at the end of August, the writing is on the wall: the Taliban are on their way back to controlling Afghanistan. As we recently wrote, Afghanistan's neighbors are bracing for a growing rush of refugees fleeing the war-ravaged country, and the EU, just a few years removed from the last refugee crisis, is watching warily as well.

Mozambique and Rwanda retake jihadist hotspot: Mozambican and Rwandan troops this week gained control of the gas-rich port city of Mocimboa da Praia in northern Mozambique. For more than three years, Islamist fighters loosely aligned with the Islamic State, have waged a brutal insurgency in the northern Cabo Delgado province. Mocimboa da Praia, the site of one of Africa's biggest liquefied natural gas projects, has become a jihadist hub in recent years. Fighting has killed more than 3,100 Mozambicans and displaced 800,000 more. Last month, Rwanda sent 1,000 troops to support Mozambique's army, and the military alliance — which also includes support from Zimbabwe, Angola, and Botswana — managed to retake control of the port, airport, and hospital in Mocimboa da Praia. This massive feat comes after the European Union said last month that it will establish a new military mission in Mozambique to help the government push back against the increasingly brazen Islamic insurgency. Still, analysts warn, the Mozambican government needs to remain vigilant because the militants might still regroup in the months ahead.

US offers NATO partnership to Brazil? During a visit to Brazil last week, US national security adviser Jake Sullivan reportedly told President Jair Bolsonaro that if he bans the Chinese tech company Huawei from building 5G networks in his country, the US would push for Brazil to become a NATO global partner. That's not quite full membership, but it would give Brazil preferential access to arms purchases and other security perks with the world's most powerful military alliance. According to the Brazilian daily Folha de São Paulo, which broke the story, the move is a bid by Washington to get Brazil on its side in a global push to squeeze Chinese tech firms out of 5G infrastructure. But Folha also reports that there are deep divisions within the Brazilian military about this: some higher-ups are implacably hostile towards China, while others say that Brasilia shouldn't ruin relations with Brazil's largest trade partner. Currently the only Latin American country that enjoys a NATO partnership is close US-ally Colombia.

Olympic-sized stakes for Japan’s prime minister

When the Tokyo Olympics begin on Friday, Japan watchers will be following more than just the performance of Japan's star athletes, including tennis star Naomi Osaka. They will also be tracking the political fortunes of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who is taking a big gamble by staging the event — amid a raging pandemic — in the face of strong and longstanding opposition from the Japanese public. What are the stakes for Suga, particularly with elections on the horizon? Eurasia Group senior analyst Ali Wyne explains.

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Are the Tokyo Olympics cursed?

Tokyo last hosted the summer Olympics in 1964, when Japan was still trying to restore its tarnished image after World War II. The Games went off swimmingly, and Japan raked in praise.

Indeed, Tokyo was hoping that the 2020 Olympics would be another 1964. But since COVID entered the scene, everything that could have gone wrong has gone wrong.

The Olympics that no one wants have so far been crippled by a series of crises and controversies that have overshadowed the sporting events. Here's a look at where things currently stand.

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What We’re Watching: Peruvian presidential runoff, EU push to tax multinationals, Japan’s post-Olympics election

Peru's divisive choice: Peruvians head to the polls on Sunday to choose between two deeply polarizing candidates in the presidential runoff election. One is Pedro Castillo, a far-left yet socially conservative union leader and teacher. Castillo wants to rewrite the constitution to curb the power of the business elite and distribute more mining wealth to social programs. The other is rightwing firebrand Keiko Fujimori, who says she would continue the free-market policies championed by her strongman father in the 1990s. Fujimori says the country needs a demodura ("hard democracy"), a somewhat milder version of the dictablanda ("soft dictatorship") her dad once led. Castillo is beloved by rural Peruvians and anti-establishment urban voters, but his embrace of Marxism and Venezuela may alienate moderates. Fujimori, for her part, is backed by big business, but very unpopular outside her base, and negatively associated with her father's authoritarian rule and corruption — not to mention her own multiple legal troubles. Castillo is currently leading in the polls, but Fujimori has a shot at victory if voter turnout is lower than expected.

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Can "the Quad" constrain China?

China is making its neighbors nervous these days. Chinese fighter jets are screaming into Taiwan's airspace. Hundreds of armed Chinese "fishing boats" are plying the disputed waters of the South China Sea. And Beijing is slashing imports from some trading partners because of disputes over political issues.

To push back against this increasingly aggressive behavior, regional powers Japan, India, and Australia, together with the US, are boosting cooperation via a 17-year-old grouping called the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or simply "The Quad." But how effectively can these four countries really work together to counter China? Eurasia Group's Peter Mumford discusses the Quad's future.

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PM Suga declares state of emergency in Tokyo region

January 08, 2021 5:00 AM

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga declared a state of emergency in Tokyo and its three neighbouring prefectures yesterday, amid a surge in the number of Covid-19 cases.

Japan PM Suga to decide on tourism campaign as approval rating plummets over Covid-19

December 14, 2020 9:43 AM

TOKYO (REUTERS) - Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga could further restrict a much-criticised travel subsidy programme in an effort to contain coronavirus infections, local media said on Sunday (Dec 13), as his approval rating plummets over the handling of the pandemic.

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