National / Politics

In media jab, beleaguered Finance Minister Taro Aso ties lack of young newspaper readers to LDP’s ‘popularity’

Kyodo

Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso raised eyebrows Sunday by suggesting that the Liberal Democratic Party is popular with young voters because they are less inclined to read newspapers than older Japanese.

The outspoken 77-year-old boasted that the LDP enjoyed strong support in last year’s general election from voters under 35, saying “this is the generation that reads newspapers the least.”

“Everyone that doesn’t read them is pro-LDP,” Aso said in a speech in Shibata, Niigata Prefecture. “Sorry to newspaper sellers, but this has made clear to me that we really shouldn’t help newspapers.”

According to a 2017 survey by the Japan Newspaper Publishers and Editors Association, 47.4 percent of men and 52.1 percent of women in their 20s don’t read physical newspapers anymore, compared with just 10.9 percent of men and 9.8 percent of women in their 60s.

The media have been critical of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s handling of the Moritomo Gakuen and Kake Gakuen cronyism scandals. The former involves a dubious 2016 sale of government land to a nationalist school entity linked to his wife, and the latter a close friend who received rare government approval to open the nation’s first new veterinary school in over half a century. Abe denies he used his influence to sway either deal.

Aso, who doubles as finance minister, has had a particularly contentious relationship with the media because of the heavy scrutiny of how bureaucrats from his ministry tampered with the Moritomo Gakuen sale documents by deleting all mentions of the Abes, and previously claiming that the documents did not exist. The Finance Ministry has been hit by two suicides since the tampering revelations emerged.

In addition to the Moritomo scandal, his ministry’s top civil servant was forced to retire for sexually harassing a TV reporter.

The LDP won the House of Representatives election by a landslide last October, taking 284 of the 465 seats and securing a two-thirds majority with Komeito, its junior coalition partner.