The Democratic Party pressured Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to quit on Thursday if allegations that he colluded with the Kake Educational Institution prove true.
“It would be tantamount to Cabinet resignation en masse” if it is confirmed that Abe’s influence motivated bureaucrats to make a decision in his favor, DP President Renho told a news conference.
“I have to say that very unusual measures have been taken on the administrative side. As suspicion grows, the government should get to the bottom of it quickly and explain the results to the public,” she said.
The main opposition party disclosed documents in the Diet on Wednesday that allegedly show that the Kake Educational Institution — headed by a close friend of Abe — was chosen unopposed to run a new veterinary school solicited by the Imabari Municipal Government in Ehime Prefecture, after bureaucrats came to the understanding that Abe favored that choice.
One of the documents regarding the time frame for opening the new school says, ” This is what the highest level of the Prime Minister’s Office has said,” alluding to Abe. Another says the early opening of the veterinary department was “in line with the prime minister’s wishes.”
The government continued to deny the allegations.
“We have checked with the Cabinet Office, but there is no such fact outlining the ‘prime minister’s intention,’ ” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, said of the documents on Thursday.
On Wednesday, the government’s top spokesman was even more indignant.
“On what basis do they say such things?” Suga asked. “It’s just an unverified document from an unclear source.”
The central government began hunting for someone to run the new veterinary department in January, but it wrapped up the selection process just eight days later after Kake Educational Institution offered to establish it as a school in the Okayama University of Science, which it also runs.
The Imabari assembly approved a plan in March to make the land available for free to the institution and provide a ¥9.6 billion subsidy. The city had acquired the land for ¥3.68 billion.
The collusion charges center on Abe’s decades-long friendship with Kotaro Kake, the chairman of the institution. The two met while Abe was attending a university in California in the 1970s. Abe described Kake as his “confidant” during an event in 2014 and they play golf and dine several times a year.
“There is an inseparable bond” between Abe and Kake, said Democratic Party member Mitsuru Sakurai said at a DP meeting Wednesday.
“If the allegation proves true, it would be the same as those involving former South Korean President Park Geun-hye, who favored her friends,” said Sakurai, who is heading up the DP’s fact-finding team on the issue.
Members of the ruling party say the Kake affair could prove to be the latest headache for the Abe administration as it pushes to pass key legislation, including the latest version of the contentious conspiracy bill.
Abe has dismissed the latest allegations as “nonsense,” a source in the Prime Minister’s Office said.
“(But) no matter how much he says there’s no truth to it, just having suspicions raised will slowly sap the administration’s strength,” the source said.
The latest claims come on the heels of the Moritomo Gakuen scandal, which has embroiled the prime minister and his wife, Akie. The scandal, which involves influence-peddling allegations centering on a nationalist school operator in Osaka, has Finance Ministry bureaucrats allegedly influencing a land deal based on the interests of the Abes, who had developed a friendship with the school’s president and his wife.
The Democratic Party pushed the Moritomo debacle as far as it could go and summoned its president at the time, Yasunori Kagoike, as a sworn witness to the Diet, where he refused to back down about his ties to the Abes. Despite the smoking gun, however, the Cabinet’s approval ratings only sank a few points, and public interest in the scandal has waned.
“This time it’s our chance,” a veteran DP lawmaker said. “If these suspicions are true, the prime minister’s head will roll.”
Having been burned by the 2006 fake email scandal that rocked the party when it was the Democratic Party of Japan, however, the DP is wary of leaning on documents without an identifiable author.
At the time, the DPJ attacked the No. 2 man in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party on the basis of what turned out to be a fabricated email, prompting a flushing of the DP leadership.
A senior DP lawmaker expressed unease over the latest documents, saying it is “unclear who wrote them.”
The DP has shared the documents with the Japanese Communist Party, known for its investigative skills, in a bid to present a united opposition front.
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