Prime Minister Shinzo Abe admitted Wednesday that he was involved in the guest selection process for a publicly funded cherry blossom-viewing party, drawing criticism from the opposition that the public event was used for election campaigning.

The prime minister was allowed to recommend as many as 1,000 guests, with his wife, Akie, also making recommendations, government officials said in the Diet. The ruling Liberal Democratic Party, led by Abe, had a quota of roughly 6,000.

The annual cherry blossom-viewing event, which began in 1952, has been at the center of controversy ever since it came to light that hundreds of Abe supporters were invited.