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PM Abe’s speechwriters contribute to his administration’s strength

(Shukan Toyo Keizai: December 12, 2015 – p. 51)


 Most of the speeches made by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at news conferences and on other occasions are written by the speechwriters in the Prime Minister’s Official Residence (Kantei). The names of speechwriters are rarely made public, and this is also true for the Abe cabinet.


 Each ministry has one or more speechwriters with the rank of assistant division chief. The speeches they draft are submitted to Abe’s secretary Takaya Imai, Cabinet Secretariat adviser Tomohiko Taniguchi, or other Kantei officials for final editing. The relevant ministries are simply left to work on speeches used for routine ceremonies.


 According to Koji Matsui, who served as a speechwriter during the Democratic Party of Japan administration under Yukio Hatoyama, “body language” is what is important for the prime minister’s speeches. “Including a leader’s personal or memorable experiences in a speech improves its originality, as if it’s flowing naturally from his body.”


 Brainstorming with the prime minister when he has some free time is also important. Staff members ask questions like: “What are your memories of this region?” “Something like this happened in the past. Shall we expound on this?” “Have you heard anything from your grandfather about this?” Sometimes, when the prime minister’s answers are insufficient, relevant documents are obtained from the ministries and other offices.


 Matsui observes that, “Mr. Abe’s speeches include a lot of personal anecdotes, which is quite unusual compared to past prime ministers. While people may like or dislike Mr. Abe, there is no doubt that his message is always clear. I think a team of several people writes his speeches. The text is well polished and the speeches are very sophisticated.”


 Speeches made during the second Abe administration that were very well received include the keynote speech he gave to the Asia Security Conference in Singapore in May last year and his speech to the U.S. Congress last April. The present administration typically produces very well-written speeches for important international political events. There is no doubt that speeches are one of the weapons of this administration that is dominated by one single leader.

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