• Kyodo


Amid a deepening scandal linked to the cronyism allegations leveled against Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, 52.0 percent of the public thinks Finance Minister Taro Aso should resign over the related document-tampering, and 65.3 percent think Abe’s wife, Akie, should be summoned to testify in the Diet, a survey showed Sunday.

In the same Kyodo News survey, the approval rating for Abe’s Cabinet was found to have tumbled below 40 percent and below the public disapproval rate as well.

The approval rate stood at 38.7 percent after sliding 9.4 points from the previous survey from March 3 to 4. The disapproval rate meanwhile jumped to 48.2 percent from 39.0 percent in the previous survey.

Of the respondents, 66.1 percent said Abe was to blame for the Finance Ministry’s doctoring of papers linked to the heavily discounted sale of state land to Moritomo Gakuen, the school chain linked to his wife.

The nationwide phone survey was conducted Saturday and Sunday, about a week after the ministry admitted its bureaucrats had doctored the sales documents by deleting references to Abe, his wife, politicians in his party, and the Japan Conference (Nippon Kaigi).

The revelation has deepened public suspicion that the papers were altered to cover up Abe’s alleged cronyism.

Abe said after the allegations first emerged in February 2017 that he would resign if he and his wife were found to have played a role in the roughly ¥800 million discount allegedly given to Moritomo.

On Wednesday the ruling parties agreed they were ready to summon former National Tax Agency head Nobuhisa Sagawa, a key figure in the scandal, to the Diet. He resigned earlier this month.

Since Abe commenced his second stint as prime minister in 2012, the lowest support rating recorded was 35.8 percent in July last year, when the government was reeling from a series of scandals, including the cronyism accusations that resurfaced recently.

Asked who should be elected in the next ruling Liberal Democratic Party presidential election in September, Abe was toppled from top spot by Shigeru Ishiba, a veteran lawmaker and former defense minister.

Ishiba was supported by 25.4 percent of respondents, followed by Shinjiro Koizumi, a rising star in the LDP and a son of charismatic former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. Abe fell to third from first place in a February survey, securing 21.7 percent of support.

With the LDP working to draw up a revision proposal for the war-renouncing Article 9 of the Constitution, 39.1 percent expressed support for a change suggested by Abe to add an explicit reference about the country’s defense forces, while 47 percent were against.

More than 50 percent expressed opposition to constitutional revision while Abe is serving as prime minister, while 36.0 percent were for it.

Abe, a conservative politician, has been eager to achieve the first-ever amendment of the Constitution, drafted by the U.S.-led occupation forces following Japan’s defeat in World War II.

By party, the LDP remained dominant with 36.2 percent backing, but it was down 3.3 percentage points from the previous survey.

The support rating for the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, the largest opposition force in the House of Representatives, edged up 0.4 percentage point to 11.5 percent.

The survey, covering 736 randomly selected households with eligible voters as well as 1,148 mobile phone numbers, obtained responses from 505 and 509 people, respectively.

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