Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has refused to demand that Yoshiro Mori resign as president of the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics Organising Committee over his sexist remarks, saying he lacks the authority to do so.
In response to the opposition camp’s calls for Mori’s resignation at a Lower House Budget Committee meeting Friday, Suga said that “the prime minister doesn’t have the authority” to replace him because the committee is a public interest corporation.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato told a news conference that Mori’s resignation is “a matter that the organizing committee decides.”
At a separate news conference, Hiroshige Seko, secretary-general for ruling Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers in the Upper House, noted that Mori expressed remorse over, apologized for and withdrew the remarks Thursday and that he is “irreplaceable.”
Mori delivered the remarks that set off the storm of criticism at a Japanese Olympic Committee gathering Wednesday,
“Meetings of boards of directors with a lot of women take so much time,” he said, along with other comments seen as sexist.
The Suga administration is now trying to put an end to the furor.
After Mori withdrew the remarks, the International Olympic Committee offered the view that the issue is closed. Mori has developed close ties with IOC chief Thomas Bach.
Behind the administration’s lack of action over Mori’s remarks is a fear that a resignation would cause confusion during preparations for the Tokyo Games, already in danger of not being held amid the coronavirus pandemic, people familiar with the situation said.
Meanwhile, opposition parties are stepping up their criticisms against Mori.
“The remarks are outrageous,” Kazuya Shinba, secretary-general of the Democratic Party for the People, said at the Lower House committee meeting. He urged Mori to resign.
Thursday’s news conference by Mori, where he apologized, sparked widespread public backlash on social media, with many voicing displeasure at his arrogant attitude toward reporters, and the Suga administration may continue to come under fire for its refusal to call for the former prime minister’s resignation.
Seiji Osaka of the largest opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan said Japanese people may turn their back on the government over the issue.
“We have to watch public opinion,” a senior government official said. “Mori’s remarks may result in quite serious consequences.”
On Friday, Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike stopped short of clarifying her position on whether Mori should step down.
“What the metropolitan government is pursuing is a way to hold the Tokyo Games,” Koike said. “I think that the organizing committee’s decision on who is best to negotiate with the IOC is necessary.”
Prior to the day’s news conference, Koike said she was “at a loss for words” over Mori’s gaffe. Later, she said she received a phone call from Mori in which he said he was very sorry for what he said and withdrew his remarks.
According to a metropolitan government official, the Tokyo Games host government had received 542 phone calls and emails protesting the remarks as of Friday evening.
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