Dec. 26 marked the fifth anniversary of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s return to power. If he wins the Liberal Democratic Party’s presidential election in autumn next year for a third term, Abe could become the longest-serving Japanese prime minister in history.

The longevity of his leadership has been supported by the “power of numbers,” or the ruling camp’s overwhelming majority in both Diet houses that has been maintained through five consecutive national election victories.

Abe led his party to a heady triumph in each of these polls by focusing his election campaigns on economic issues.

Abe’s leadership has also been marked by a steady stream of new slogans to change the defining policy themes of his administration.

By announcing policy proposals in packages designed to pique public interest and stressing his commitment to achieving the goals, Abe has been trying to cast himself as a powerful leader who can get things done.

His first major political catchphrase was the “three arrows” of Abenomics, or the three main pillars of his expansionary economic agenda. He next promised to enhance the role of women in society before advocating “local revitalization” in response to growing public concerns about the nation’s demographic decline.

He then announced “three new arrows” as key tools to create a “society where all 100 million people play active roles.” These slogans were followed by proposals to “reform the way Japanese work” and “revolutionize human development.”

Abe’s series of high-profile policy targets include having zero children on waiting lists for nursery schools, making the term “non-regular” (workers) obsolete and ensuring no one will be forced to leave his or her job to care for family members.

Indeed, the stock market has risen, the number of jobs has increased and the government’s tax revenue has grown.

But the administration cannot claim that its economic policy has achieved much of what was promised in its high-sounding slogans.

The government has yet to declare an end to deflation. The Bank of Japan has pushed back, as many as six times, the time frame for achieving its inflation target of 2 percent.

The elimination of waiting lists for nursery schools, a goal originally to be accomplished during the current fiscal year, has been postponed by three years.

The government has also effectively and gradually extended the timetable for achieving a primary surplus--government tax receipts exceeding outlays other than net interest--a key fiscal policy target that was supposed to be attained in fiscal 2020, which starts in April 2020.

Although the number of working women has increased, Japan has slid to 114th among 144 nations in the World Economic Forum’s gender equality rankings this year, the lowest position of a Group of Seven industrial nation.

The government should make steady efforts to achieve each of its policy goals and adjust its plans and approaches through honest, objective assessments of the results of its efforts.

But the Abe administration has failed to follow this essential process as it has switched from one policy theme to another.

This is what Abe has actually done under his economy-focused policy agenda.

Even so, the voting public has continued to give the administration an overwhelming mandate over the past five years.

The weak and fragmented opposition and the features of the electoral system have probably played a part.

But it would not be surprising if the administration believes that the people have short-term feelings and memories.

The Abe administration has pushed through a series of bills to change the basic framework of the nation without making these measures key election topics. They include the state secrets protection law, national security legislation and the “anti-conspiracy” law.

The administration has constantly changed its key policy slogans partly to shore up sagging Cabinet approval ratings following the enactment of these controversial laws.

After maintaining the political momentum of his leadership through five years of pursuing this strategy, Abe is now poised to take steps to accomplish his long-cherished ambition to revise the Constitution.

At the fifth anniversary of Abe’s return to the top job, the nation needs to take a fresh look back on his administration’s behavior over the past five years.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Dec. 26