Finance Minister Taro Aso was fighting for his political survival Tuesday as a growing cronyism scandal that has paralyzed the Diet threatened to divide the ruling party and deal a potentially devastating blow to the Abe administration.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Aso, his close ally, are under pressure over the Finance Ministry's admission that it had made dozens of deletions to 14 documents related to the shady 2016 sale of state land to nationalist school operator Moritomo Gakuen, which has ties to Abe's wife, Akie, between late February 2017 and April the same year, weeks after the heavily discounted sale was first reported.
The suspicion of a cover-up has rocked the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and could dash Abe's hopes of winning a third term as party leader in a September vote. Losing the party leadership would ruin Abe's chances of becoming the country's longest-serving prime minister. Opposition lawmakers are calling for Aso to step down to take responsibility, and some analysts believe his resignation could be inevitable.