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Opposition parties renew demand that Abe open Diet to answer for scandals

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Staff Writer

Dismayed at Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s inaction, the opposition camp on Thursday repeated its petition to his Cabinet to call an extraordinary Diet session and urged the leader to take responsibility for appointing gaffe-prone Defense Minister Tomomi Inada.

Thursday’s move by opposition parties followed a similar request lodged with Lower House Speaker Tadamori Oshima last week.

Invoking Article 53 of the Constitution, the opposition — the Democratic Party, Japanese Communist Party, Liberal Party and Social Democratic Party — has demanded that the Abe Cabinet swiftly convene a Diet session to publicly explain a series of scandals plaguing the administration.

But the request has so far fallen on deaf ears.

The opposition argues that Abe’s apparent unwillingness to reopen the Diet runs counter to a promise earlier this month to “sincerely fulfill” his responsibility to explain the ongoing Kake Gakuen scandal — in which he allegedly exerted influence to hasten the opening of a new veterinary department at a university run by his close friend.

“Prime Minister Abe’s refusal to fulfill his accountability shows he is disingenuous,” Kazuori Yamanoi, Diet affairs chief of the DP, told reporters after jointly submitting a second petition to Oshima with his counterparts from other opposition parties.

Oshima, in response, said that he will “make sure to let the Cabinet know” about the new petition, according to Yamanoi.

The opposition camp also seeks to grill Abe over his appointment of Inada, who has found herself in hot water after suggesting on Tuesday that the Self-Defense Forces back a particular Liberal Democratic Party-backed candidate vying for a seat in Tokyo’s Itabashi Ward ahead of Sunday’s metropolitan election.

Inada’s remark hit a nerve because it disregarded the SDF’s strict policy of political neutrality, which symbolizes Japan’s disavowal of the military-controlled politics that led the country to wartime aggression.

Leaders from the four opposition parties signed a petition Wednesday evening calling on Abe to remove Inada from the Cabinet, saying her comment was tantamount to the minister trying to “personalize the SDF for political gains.”

The timing of Inada’s gaffe couldn’t have been worse for the LDP, which was already seen having a tough time beating Tomin First no Kai (Tokyoites First), a powerful new party founded by popular Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike, in Sunday’s election.

Inada is “far from suitable to serve as the defense minister. I’m sure Tokyo residents will give a harsh verdict,” DP President Renho said Thursday.

Further adding to the LDP’s headaches, a fresh piece of audio surfaced Thursday purporting to show a former party member hurling a string of epithets at her male secretary.

Mayuko Toyota, who was recorded by the secretary as screaming “you baldy!” at him and otherwise belittling him in tones ranging from enraged to cruel, has become a fixture on news programs since the first recording was disclosed by tabloid magazine Shukan Shincho last week.

Toyota resigned from the LDP after the first recording was made public but she remains a lawmaker.

The new audio, which likewise dominated coverage on Thursday’s tabloid TV shows, took Toyota’s notoriety to a new level. She was recorded as telling the secretary: “Drop dead. You don’t deserve to live.”