Japan PM Abe back on the ropes

Ap­proval rat­ings plum­met amid sec­ond crony­ism scan­dal

Global Times US Edition - - WORLD -

Japan’s pre­mier was fac­ing fresh pres­sure Mon­day as new polls showed a sec­ond crony­ism scan­dal has sent his ap­proval rat­ings nose­div­ing, and thou­sands of protesters ral­lied for his res­ig­na­tion.

Shinzo Abe looked to have weath­ered the storm over a first scan­dal on the cut-price sale of govern­ment land, with his ap­proval rat­ings start­ing to creep back up af­ter drop­ping to record lows.

But a sec­ond fa­voritism row has now erupted into the head­lines, reignit­ing the de­bate on whether Abe has the back­ing to win a third term as party chief in Septem­ber and be­come the coun­try’s long­est-serv­ing pre­mier.

On Mon­day, a poll by the Asahi Shim­bun daily showed Abe’s dis­ap­proval rat­ing at 52 per­cent, up from 48 per­cent a month ear­lier, with his ap­proval rat­ing at just 31 per­cent.

And a week­end poll by Ky­odo News showed pub­lic sup­port down by 5.4 per­cent­age points to 37 per­cent, his sec­ond worst show­ing in the out­let’s polling since he took of­fice in 2012.

On Satur­day, thou­sands turned out to an un­usu­ally large demon­stra­tion in front of the na­tional par­lia­ment, call­ing on Abe to re­sign over the twin scan­dals.

The lat­est furore in­volves al­le­ga­tions that Abe wielded his in­flu­ence to help a friend open a vet­eri­nary school, claims that the pre­mier has fiercely re­jected.

But last week an of­fi­cial doc­u­ment emerged de­scrib­ing the school as “an is­sue that in­volves the prime min­is­ter,” re­heat­ing al­le­ga­tions that Abe used his in­flu­ence to se­cure the per­mit for the school.

The scan­dal fol­lows on the heels of weeks of up­roar over Abe’s al­leged ties to the cut­price sale of govern­ment land to a school op­er­a­tor.

The op­er­a­tor planned to name Abe’s wife the hon­orary prin­ci­pal of the school, and the op­po­si­tion al­leges Abe’s in­flu­ence cleared the way for the bar­gain sale.

The scan­dal deep­ened with the rev­e­la­tion the fi­nance min­istry had scrubbed doc­u­ments re­lated to the sale to re­move ref­er­ences to Abe and his wife.

The rows come as Abe pre­pares to stand later this year for re­elec­tion as party leader, a vote he was once ex­pected to win hand­ily.

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