The education ministry appears set to approve the opening of a veterinary school at the center of cronyism allegations levied at Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, sources said.
A ministry panel will endorse a revised plan for the school operated by Kake Gakuen, which is run by Abe’s close friend Kotaro Kake, the sources said Thursday. It would be the nation’s first new veterinary school in half a century.
The panel’s decision is likely to be reported to education minister Yoshimasa Hayashi by Nov. 10 at the earliest. But opposition parties are sure to grill the government on the matter as doubts remain over allegations that Abe inappropriately wielded his influence in the decision-making process .
In the summer, the scandal contributed to a plunge in the Abe Cabinet’s approval rating. But support slowly returned and the ruling parties staged a landslide victory in the Oct. 22 general election.
For five decades, the government had not approved the opening of new veterinary schools amid questions over the need to train more veterinarians.
But in January, the Abe government officially approved the project by Kake Gakuen (Kake Educational Institution) within a government-designated deregulation zone in Imabari, Ehime Prefecture. The school operator has since sought approval for the project from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology.
A ministry body overseeing university construction projects initially planned to decide on the issue in late August. But as favoritism allegations surfaced, it put the decision on hold, citing problems in the proposed educational program.
Kake Gakuen submitted a revised plan in September, and the panel noted improvement during a closed session on Thursday, according to the sources.
Construction has already begun on the facility, set to open next spring.
Although Abe has denied favoritism allegations, documents found at the ministry indicated that officials at the Cabinet Office, which oversees deregulated economic zones, pressured the ministry ahead of a government decision on the project.
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