Prime Minister Shinzo Abe retained all of his ministers for his fourth Cabinet, which was launched on Nov. 1.

Abe has also reappointed all the key members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s leadership team, opting to keep the lineup of top party and administration officials unchanged.

That’s hardly surprising given that it is only three months since he reshuffled his Cabinet to assemble what he called a team of “hard workers.”

The “hard-working” Cabinet did little visible work during those three months.

Instead of allowing the reorganized Cabinet to do its work, Abe dissolved the Lower House for a snap election at the outset of an extraordinary Diet session, which was finally convened after months of ignoring an opposition request for such a session. By doing so, the prime minister robbed the Diet of the opportunity to discuss policy issues before the election.

The LDP scored a crushing victory in the Oct. 22 poll. If he is re-elected as party chief in the LDP leadership election next autumn, Abe will be on track to become the longest-serving prime minister in the history of modern parliamentary politics in Japan, which started in the late 19th century.

But the public is apparently not quite satisfied with Abe’s performance.

In an Asahi Shimbun survey conducted immediately after the election, 37 percent of the respondents said they wanted to see Abe continue serving as prime minister, while 47 percent said they didn’t.

Asked about reasons for the LDP’s landslide victory, only 26 percent of the respondents cited public support for his policies, while 65 percent disagreed with this view.

As for Abe’s policy agenda, 29 percent of the pollees said they were “more hopeful than worried” about it, while 54 percent described themselves as “more worried.”

Apparently mindful of the unfavorable public sentiment toward his leadership, Abe pledged to run the government in a “humble and sincere” manner after the election.

Unfortunately, however, the Abe administration’s behavior since the election has raised serious doubts about his commitment to his pledge.

Initially, the government and the ruling party intended to end the special Diet session convened on Nov. 1 after only several days of deliberations.

After the plan was bitterly criticized by opposition parties, the ruling camp grudgingly agreed to allow the session to run through Dec. 9. Still, the ruling camp’s aborted attempt to limit it to a very short period underscored afresh its inclination to avoid Diet debate with opposition parties.

The administration and the LDP are also maneuvering to reduce the length of time for questions allotted to opposition parties in the Lower House. If they have their way, the legislature’s ability to check the actions of the administrative branch and question it over allegations against it will be seriously undermined.

The attempt is nothing but bare-knuckle politics driven by an overwhelming majority in the Diet.

The move also seems to reflect the administration’s desire to avoid opposition attacks over the political scandals involving Moritomo Gakuen and the Kake Educational Institution, two school operators linked to the prime minister.

But Abe should not be wasting time on such petty political maneuvering at the moment. Instead, he needs to take concrete actions in line with his promise to adopt a humble approach to politics.

A good start would be to do exactly what he is expected to do--tackling head-on Diet debate with opposition parties.

He should stop parrying questions and just keep rattling away his claims and arguments.

Even if decisions must be made by a majority vote in the end, the leader should pay serious attention to minority opinions as well in respecting the democratic process of seeking a consensus.

Allegations related to the Moritomo and Kake scandals are not the only issues that should be addressed in the special Diet session.

Sufficient time should also be spent on deliberations on the North Korea situation, which Abe himself has called a “national crisis,” and the demographic problem of low birthrates in Japan.

Whether the prime minister will make serious efforts to ensure adequate and constructive Diet debate will be the key indicator of his political stance.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Nov. 2