A senior ruling party lawmaker urged the government Sunday to release this week the findings of a probe into the existence of documents indicating Prime Minister Shinzo Abe influenced the approval of a new department at a university run by a close friend.
“I want (the government) to present the results this week,” Hakubun Shimomura, executive acting secretary-general of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, said during a television appearance.
A senior lawmaker from LDP coalition partner Komeito appearing on the same TV program also called for a swift response.
According to a top lawmaker rom the Democratic Party, the main opposition party will consider submitting a no-confidence motion against the Cabinet over the matter, demanding the Diet summon former top education ministry bureaucrat Kihei Maekawa.
Maekawa and several other ministry officials gave accounts saying that documents exist hinting at Abe’s involvement in the decision to approve a new department at the Okayama University of Science, and that they were shared within the ministry.
“If there is no sincere response, we will consider submitting a no-confidence motion,” DP Deputy Secretary-General Yuichiro Tamaki said on the same TV show.
The lawmakers’ remarks came after the education minister said Friday that the ministry will conduct an additional probe into claims that internal documents suggest Abe had swayed the decision to approve the request by the university’s operator, Okayama-based Kake Gakuen, to build a new veterinary department in a special deregulated zone.
Since the existence of the documents was reported last month, public discontent has grown over the government’s denials, polls have shown.
In a survey conducted last month by Kyodo News, 77.0 percent of respondents remained unconvinced with the government’s explanation that it could not confirm the existence of the documents.
In requesting a swift release of the results by the government, Shimomura said he took into account the potential impact on the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly election, for which campaigning is set to start on June 23.
“It would disadvantage us if we were to contest the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly election while the matter is unclear,” Shimomura told reporters after the program.
On the same show, Tetsuo Saito, acting secretary-general of Komeito, echoed this view.
“I want the government to present the results swiftly,” he said.
The DP’s Tamaki called on the government to release the results on Monday, arguing that it is capable of quickly determining whether such an email or attached documents exists.
Akira Koike, head of the Secretariat of the opposition Japanese Communist Party, sided with Tamaki and said Maekawa should be summoned to the Diet as early as possible.
“The government would lose its confidence unless it investigates thoroughly to find out if private influence was exerted on the government’s decision-making,” Koike said on the program.
One of the documents that opposition parties say they obtained allegedly says opening the new university department soon was “in line with the prime minister’s wishes.”
Kake Gakuen head Kotaro Kake is known as a close friend of Abe. The government approved the school chain’s plan to open the country’s first new veterinary department in more than 50 years in an area of Imabari, Ehime Prefecture, that was made into a specially deregulated economic zone under Abe’s growth strategy.
The ministry’s initial investigation involved checking shared folders and holding hearings with seven officials before concluding it could not find the papers in question.
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