Thursday, 26 April, 2018

Japan PM takes blame for loss of trust over scandal

Majority believe Japan PM bears some responsibility for altered documents: poll Abe's support sliding: poll
Orlando Vargas | 20 March, 2018, 10:11

Stocks lost further ground on the Tokyo Stock Exchange on Monday after public support rates have tumbled for the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe due to a favoritism scandal.

The scandal stems from the 2016 sale of state land to school operator Moritomo Gakuen in Osaka at one-seventh of the appraised value with the alleged involvement of Akie Abe, who has said both she and her husband supported the school's ultra-nationalistic philosophy of education.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is facing the worst crisis of his leadership after his and his wife's names were scrubbed from documents showing the discounted sale of government-owned land to a company tied to his wife.

Public opinion may not be the most important factor in the selection of the party leader, a decision made by members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

The finance ministry has admitted to altering documents related to the deal.

Two opinion polls published over the weekend showed Mr Abe's support diving to its lowest since he took office in December 2012, and others showed a majority of Japanese believed he bore some responsibility for the scandal.

But 47.6 percent said Abe does not need to resign over the issue, while 43.8 percent said he should step down.

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Opposition lawmakers alleged that the tempering, which started soon after Abe stated in parliament in mid-February a year ago that he would step down if any proof of his or his wife's involvement was found, might have been aimed at protecting Abe.

"Public trust in the administration as a whole has been shaken by the adjustment of documents, and I take this seriously", Abe said Monday.

Opposition lawmakers said answers to their questions were unlikely to come from the premier or Mr Aso and renewed their call for Nobuhisa Sagawa, who had headed the division that submitted the documents before he became tax agency chief in July, to testify in parliament.

Ministry officials said the land deal documents were altered from late February to April previous year at the instruction of the financial bureau, the ministry department in charge of state property transactions, mostly at its regional unit in Osaka. Asked whether he should remain leader after the September party election, 53 percent of respondents said he should be replaced, while 31 percent said he should stay on.

Former defence minister Shigeru Ishiba, 61, won the support of most respondents, followed by LDP rising star Shinjiro Koizumi, 36. He said he expects the prime minister to win a third term as party leader.

"I didn't even know that there were documents compiled by the Financial Bureau or the Kinki Local Finance Bureau in the first place", Abe told the House of Councillors Budget Committee during intensive deliberations on March 19, denying once again that he ordered that the documents be manipulated.

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