Japanese old guard take over reins

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Old-guard veteran Shinzo Abe has been voted back into office as prime minister of Japan and immediately named a new cabinet restoring power to his conservative, pro-big-business party.

Abe, whose nationalist views have angered Japan’s neighbours, is the country’s seventh prime minister in just over six years. He was also prime minister in 2006-2007 before resigning for health reasons.

The outspoken and often hawkish leader has promised to restore growth to an economy that has been struggling for 20 years. He also faces souring relations with China and a complex debate over whether resource-poor Japan should wean itself off nuclear energy after last year’s earthquake and tsunami caused a meltdown at an atomic power plant.

He will have to win over a public that gave his party only a lukewarm mandate in elections on December 16, but is capitalising on voter discontent to promote a more assertive foreign policy after decades of pacifism following the second world war that has already led to tensions with China.