Apart from such matters as a possible amendment to the Constitution and whether to go ahead with the next consumption tax hike, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s accountability over the Kake Gakuen and Moritomo Gakuen scandals — which raised suspicions of favoritism in the government’s decision-making processes over the school operators with ties to the prime minister or his wife — looms as an issue in Sunday’s Lower House election. Abe should not forget that voters are still waiting for full explanations of the scandals. He should not consider the job finished if he survives the election.
Also connected with the scandals are questions over the relationship between the Prime Minister’s Office and the bureaucracy. The Abe administration has created a setup to tightly control the personnel affairs of high-ranking government bureaucrats in the form of the Cabinet personnel affairs bureau established within the secretariat of the Prime Minister’s Office. It has raised suspicions that feeling invisible pressure, elite bureaucrats will not go against the intentions of the prime minister or his office — or even try to conform to his will — possibly in excessive ways, without being explicitly told what to do or not to do.
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