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Editorial:The miracle of Shinzo Abe's premiership

【明報專訊】ON November 20 Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe made history by becoming the longest-serving prime minister of Japan at 2,887 days. If nothing prevents him from finishing his term, by late September 2021, when his term expires, he will have been in power for 3,567 days.

Japanese politics is highly complicated. The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which has long been controlled by plutocrats and their families, has almost monopolised Japanese politics since the Second World War. Of Japan's 52 prime ministers, the party has supplied 41. The party was twice ousted from office only because of failures to mediate differences between its different factions. The parties in opposition are no match for the LDP. Even when these parties were in power, there was the revolving door phenomenon that saw a flurry of prime ministers within a short period of time. Since Abe came into power, the numerous parties in opposition have kept fragmenting and restructuring. This means that while Abe has no contenders within the LDP, the parties in opposition lack a worthy leader that can challenge Abe. The Japanese political arena is unprecedentedly stable. This is the background to Abe's long and stable premiership.

There are views in Japan that as Abe's premiership is the longest in history, it will of course go down in the annals. However, how will historians chronicle Abe's political achievements? No sooner had Abe been sworn in as prime minister for the second time in 2012 than he unveiled his Abenomics in a fast and furious manner. His ''three arrows'' are aimed at stimulating the economy. Though the Japanese economy has kept growing since Abe was sworn in, the growth rate has fluctuated between 0.7% and 2%. This is hardly an achievement. On the diplomatic front, Abe has done a mediocre job. As for Japan's relations with Russia, zero progress has been made in resolving the controversy over the Northern Territories, while the relations between Japan and South Korea have hit rock bottom. The Sino-Japanese-South Korean free trade zone project has fallen through. On the domestic front, Abe does not have a structural policy to deal with the problem of its ageing population. His attempt to amend Japan's pacifist constitution has met with strong opposition. Though Abe has not given up and is eager for a second bite of the cherry in his remaining term of office, the pressure from public opinion remains.

Only the Japanese people — not the others — can have a say in whether Abe will go down in history as a good prime minister. But Abe does possess the wisdom to act with circumspection and strong executive abilities. For other politicians, these qualities can be something to learn from. It might not be possible for a politician to formulate impeccable policies. More often than not, the key is the ability to execute the policies. Abe's policies are often controversial. However, when trying to press ahead with a policy, not only must one consider the common and opposing interests, but one also needs a strong team for its implementation. So far Abe has reshuffled his cabinet six times to make sure that his team share his aspirations when implementing his policies. A cabinet is reshuffled to review why a major policy has met with setbacks in its implementation and to make the personnel changes needed for the implementation of a new policy. A politician cannot turn oneself into a ''maverick''. No matter how good a policy is, it is impossible to implement it on one's own.

明報社評2019.11.25:審時度勢執行力強 安倍晉三成就奇蹟

日本首相安倍晉三在11月20日改寫了日本歷史,以執政2887天成為在位時間最長的首相,如果他順利將餘下任期做滿,到2021年9月底,將會執政3567天。

日本的政治十分複雜,長期由財閥家族控制的自民黨,二戰後幾乎壟斷了日本的政壇,52任總理中有41任由自民黨執政,兩次被在野黨趕下台都是因為內部各派勢力未能調和所致,但自民黨與在野黨的實力相當懸殊,即使在野黨執政也出現短期內頻繁更換首相的「旋轉門」現象。安倍執政期間,多個在野黨也在不斷分裂與重組,意味着安倍在自民黨內沒有挑戰他的人選,在野黨則群龍無首而無能力挑戰安倍的地位,日本政壇出現一個空前穩定的窗口,這是造就安倍長期執政、穩坐釣魚船的政治大背景。

日本的輿論認為,安倍執政時間最長固之然會載入史冊,但今後歷史學家在寫安倍的政績時會記下哪一筆呢?安倍2012年重新拜相時,風風火火推行「安倍經濟學」,還有如何執行的「三支箭」,政策目標是刺激經濟,但在任內,雖然都維持正增長,但增長率還是在最低的0.7%至最高的2%之間徘徊,不能說是成就。外交方面也乏善足陳,日俄關係方面,北方四島主權爭議沒有寸進,日韓關係跌至谷底,中日韓自貿區計劃泡湯。在國內老齡化問題上沒有結構性的政策應對,而修改和平憲法遭到強烈反對,安倍仍然心不死要在餘下任期重彈老調,輿論壓力猶存。

安倍是否名留青史,由日本人說了算,外人無從置喙。但安倍確實有審時度勢的睿智,以及超強的執行力,這些素質或許可以成為其他為政者的借鑑。為政者未必能夠制定出毫無瑕疵的政策,更多時候是取決於執行力。安倍的政策往往都有爭議。但推行一項政策不但要估計到利益相關方的矛盾和共性,還要有一個強而有力的團隊去推行,安倍在任內6次改組內閣,就是要保證他的團隊,是能夠跟他同心同德去推行政策的。改組內閣,既是檢討某個重大政策不能順利推行導致的後果,也是為推行新的政策所做的人事準備。為政者總不能將自己變成「孤家寡人」,再好的政策,單人匹馬是無法推行下去的。

■Glossary

annals:an official record of events or activities year by year; historical records

impeccable:without mistakes or faults

maverick:a person who does not behave or think like everyone else, but who has independent, unusual opinions

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