Abe’s woes deepen; rat­ings drop, pre­de­ces­sor pre­dicts res­ig­na­tion

Scan­dal woes en­dan­ger Japan PM shot at 3rd term

Kuwait Times - - International -

TOKYO: Ja­panese Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe’s po­lit­i­cal cri­sis deep­ened yes­ter­day af­ter polls showed that sus­pected crony­ism scan­dals have pushed his sup­port to record lows and a pop­u­lar pre­de­ces­sor said Abe would prob­a­bly re­sign in June. In an­other headache for the con­ser­va­tive premier, the fi­nance min­istry’s top bu­reau­crat has come under fire af­ter a weekly mag­a­zine re­ported he had sex­u­ally ha­rassed sev­eral fe­male jour­nal­ists. The bu­reau­crat yes­ter­day de­nied the ac­cu­sa­tions and said he would file a law­suit against the mag­a­zine’s pub­lisher.

Abe’s slid­ing rat­ings raise doubts about whether he can win a third three-year term as rul­ing Lib­eral Demo­cratic Party (LDP) leader in a Septem­ber vote, that he needs to win to stay in of­fice, or whether he might re­sign be­fore the party vote. Spec­u­la­tion has even emerged that Abe, who surged back to power for a sec­ond term as prime min­is­ter in De­cem­ber 2012, promis­ing to re­boot a stale econ­omy and bol­ster Japan’s de­fenses, could call a snap gen­eral elec­tion as he did last Oc­to­ber when his rat­ings were in a sim­i­lar slump. A sur­vey by broad­caster Nip­pon TV re­leased on Sun­day showed Abe’s sup­port had sunk to 26.7 per­cent, the low­est since he took of­fice in De­cem­ber 2012. An Asahi news­pa­per poll yes­ter­day put his sup­port at 31 per­cent.

The lat­est signs of trouble for Abe come ahead of a sum­mit this week with US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, where the dif­fi­cult top­ics of North Korea’s nu­clear and mis­sile threats and trade will be on the agenda. “The sit­u­a­tion is get­ting dan­ger­ous. Won’t Mr Abe re­sign around the time par­lia­ment’s ses­sion ends?” for­mer premier Ju­nichiro Koizumi, a one-time Abe men­tor, said in an in­ter­view pub­lished by the on­line edi­tion of the weekly mag­a­zine Aera. The ses­sion ends on June 20. Koizumi - a critic of Abe’s sup­port for nu­clear power af­ter the 2011 Fukushima ac­ci­dent - said that if Abe hung on, it could hurt LDP can­di­dates in an up­per house elec­tion next year.

Crowds of pro­test­ers demon­strated near par­lia­ment on Satur­day, hold­ing signs say­ing “Abe is Over” and chant­ing “Abe quit!” Or­ga­niz­ers said 50,000 peo­ple took part. The Asahi sur­vey, in line with oth­ers, showed that two-thirds of vot­ers did not trust Abe’s ex­pla­na­tions that he was not in­volved in the crony­ism scan­dals. Abe has de­nied that he had in­ter­vened to en­sure pref­er­en­tial treat­ment for the ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tion Kake Gakuen, run by his friend Ko­taro Kake, to set up a vet­eri­nary school. He has also re­peat­edly de­nied that he or his wife in­ter­vened in a heav­ily dis­counted sale of state-owned land to an­other school op­er­a­tor, Morit­omo Gakuen,

which has ties to his wife.

Se­nior Ja­panese bu­reau­crat de­nies ha­rass­ment claim

Fi­nan­cial mar­kets blase

The Morit­omo af­fair has en­snared the fi­nance min­istry, which has ad­mit­ted of­fi­cials doc­tored doc­u­ments re­lated to the land-sale. The min­istry is also in an unwelcome spot­light over the sex­ual ha­rass­ment al­le­ga­tions against Ad­min­is­tra­tive Vice Fi­nance Min­is­ter Ju­nichi Fukuda. He has de­nied the al­le­ga­tions, pub­lished by the Shin­cho mag­a­zine, and vowed to sue its pub­lisher for defama­tion. Fukuda apol­o­gized for caus­ing trouble for the min­is­ter and min­istry of­fi­cials “by invit­ing pub­lic dis­trust”, the min­istry said. Fi­nan­cial mar­kets have not re­acted to the lat­est fall in Abe’s sup­port as many in­vestors think he can sur­vive, as he did last year when the crony­ism scan­dals eroded his rat­ings. “If Abe will have to leave, that would be a big deal but I don’t see that hap­pen­ing yet,” said Soichiro Monji, chief strate­gist at Daiwa SB In­vest­ments.

Many in­vestors also noted the risk of “Abexit” looks small com­pared with the more im­me­di­ate risks of a pos­si­ble trade war and a planned sum­mit be­tween Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un that could leave Japan iso­lated. Who would re­place Abe, who has man­aged the rare feat of stay­ing in of­fice more than five years, is un­clear. For­mer cab­i­net min­is­ter Shigeru Ishiba, who wants to chal­lenge Abe for the top post, topped a list of politi­cians that re­spon­dents to a week­end Kyodo news agency sur­vey saw as best suited to be­come the next premier, with 26.6 per­cent.

Pop­u­lar young LDP law­maker Shin­jiro Koizumi ex-prime min­is­ter Koizumi’s son - ranked sec­ond with 25.2 per­cent, with Abe in third place with 18.3 per­cent. For­mer for­eign min­is­ter Fu­mio Kishida, an­other pos­si­ble con­tender, was fourth with 5.9 per­cent fol­lowed by In­ter­nal Af­fairs Min­is­ter Seiko Noda at 3.6 per­cent and For­eign Min­is­ter Taro Kono with 2.9 per­cent. Among LDP sup­port­ers, how­ever, Abe was top with 36.7 per­cent against 24.7 per­cent for Ishiba, Kyodo said. None of the po­ten­tial suc­ces­sors has out­lined clear agen­das, al­though Ishiba and Kishida have sug­gested more at­ten­tion should be paid to pub­lic debt and that the hyper-easy mon­e­tary pol­icy cen­tral to the premier’s “Abe­nomics” growth strat­egy could not con­tinue for­ever. —Reuters

TOKYO: Pro­test­ers stage a demon­stra­tion in front of the Na­tional Diet build­ing in Tokyo to de­mand the res­ig­na­tion of Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe. —AFP

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