Is Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe about to do a Theresa May? In June, the British prime minister called an unnecessary general election because the opinion polls gave her a supposedly unassailable lead. In the course of the campaign, that lead dwindled to almost nothing due to a combination of inept campaign strategy and astute politicking by her opponent, the wildly underestimated opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn. It is now touch-and-go whether she survives until the end of the year.
Like Corbyn, Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike is a seasoned operator with a flair for populist gestures and a justly earned reputation for standing apart from the crowd of colorless party hacks. Unlike the vast majority of Japanese politicians, she has no coalition of vested interests behind her, no party machine and no network of influential backers. Her approval ratings of around 70% are far above those achieved by Abe even at peak popularity.