• Kyodo, Staff Report

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The support rate for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Cabinet fell 6.0 percentage points from the previous month to 55.7 percent after the emergence of a scandal about a murky land deal involving a school operator with ties to him and his wife, a Kyodo News poll released Sunday showed.

The nationwide telephone survey conducted over the weekend found that 86.5 percent of respondents viewed the purchase of state-owned land in Osaka at a heavily discounted price by Moritomo Gakuen as inappropriate, while 6.6 percent said they view it as appropriate.

The land is being used to build an elementary school, with funds for the school allegedly raised using Abe’s name. Abe’s wife, Akie, was to serve as the school’s honorary principal but resigned after questions were raised about the controversial land deal.

Moritomo Gakuen is private Osaka educational operation that advocates nationalist, prewar values.

The poll showed 74.6 percent of respondents said they back summoning the educational entity’s representative, Yasunori Kagoike, to a Diet session to get to the bottom of the shady land deal.

On Friday, Kagoike announced his intention to resign after withdrawing an application to approve the opening of the new elementary school.

With the withdrawal, which the prefecture has accepted, the elementary school will not open as scheduled on April 1.

Opposition parties have demanded Kagoike’s summoning, but Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party has remained reluctant to do so.

Abe has denied that he and his wife were involved in the land deal.

Some 87.6 percent said they do not think the government has shown accountability about the land deal while 5.2 percent said they think the government has fully explained its role in the scandal.

On Abe’s remarks with regard to relationships with Moritomo Gakuen, 58.3 percent said they are not satisfied with the prime minister’s explanation, while 30.8 percent said they are.

The disapproval rating for Abe’s Cabinet stood at 30.7 percent, compared with 27.2 percent last month.

On a contentious bill to criminalize conspiracy to commit terrorism, 45.5 percent said they are opposed to the legislation, while 33 percent said they back it.

Bills of a similar nature have failed in the Diet in recent years amid heavy criticism such a law could be used by authorities as a front to abuse human rights, suppress civic groups and arbitrarily punish people who have committed no wrongdoing.

On the subject of Emperor Akihito’s envisioned abdication, 63.8 percent said they support revising the Imperial House Law to enable all emperors, including his successors, to relinquish the throne, while 27.6 percent said they support establishing special legislation that allows only the present Emperor to step down, a legal framework the LDP aims to enact in the current Diet session.

By party, the dominance of the ruling LDP remained unchanged despite the scandal over the murky land deal, with 43.8 percent of respondents backing the party, though down 0.8 of a point.

The largest opposition Democratic Party, which is struggling to gain support in its push to regain power, was backed by 9.4 percent, up 2.1 points.

The support rating for Komeito, the LDP’s junior coalition partner, stood at 2.8 percent, while the rate for the Japanese Communist Party stood at 3.7 percent and the Japan Restoration Party at 2.0 percent.

Some 36 percent of respondents said they do not support any party.

The nationwide telephone survey conducted Saturday and Sunday covered 1,463 randomly selected households with eligible voters nationwide, with valid responses collected from 1,018 people.

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