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






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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