• Kyodo


The public support rate for the Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe climbed 3.7 points to 42.4 percent in a weekend opinion poll despite a document-tampering scandal at the Finance Ministry that has rocked his government in recent weeks.

In the meantime, 47.5 percent of the respondents said they do not support Abe’s Cabinet, down 0.7 point but still higher than the support rate, the survey by Kyodo News showed.

The rebound might deal a blow to opposition lawmakers who expected the support rate — a critical indicator for the arguably populist Abe administration — to drop further amid the public furor over the Moritomo Gakuen land scandal.

Still, the survey also shows that the majority of the voters are frustrated with the explanations provided by Abe’s team about the favoritism scandal.

About 65 percent said they believe Abe is responsible for the document-tampering involving the Moritomo Gakuen scandal, and 60.7 percent said first lady Akie Abe should be summoned to the Diet for questioning.

In the meantime, the Cabinet is considering abolishing Article 4 of the Broadcasting Act, which obliges TV broadcasters to be “politically fair,” meaning a broadcaster cannot advocate certain political creeds or support certain parties.

Asked about this, 61.3 percent opposed it and 23 percent supported it.

Last month, the Finance Ministry admitted that dozens of sections were deleted from 14 documents related to a heavily discounted land deal with nationalist school operator Moritomo Gakuen, which once boasted close ties with Akie Abe. Opposition lawmakers suspect the ministry provided the 86 percent discount on the state land because Moritomo Gakuen chief Yasunori Kagoike was close to the first lady.

The poll also showed 72.6 percent were “not convinced with” the explanation offered by former Finance Ministry official Nobuhisa Sagawa during sworn testimony in the Diet on Tuesday.

During that testimony, opposition lawmakers grilled Sagawa for four hours over the document falsifications.

Sagawa was head of the ministry’s Financial Bureau, which handled the Moritomo land deal and deleted dozens of sections from 14 related documents. But Sagawa refused to answer most of the lawmakers’ key questions, citing fears that he could face criminal prosecution if he did.

Falsification of public documents is punishable under the Penal Code.

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