Embattled Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has fought off suggestions from a former prime minister that he should resign, as his administration suffers under numerous cronyism scandals.
Abe denied claims that he helped a friend set up a veterinary school.
Elsewhere, Japan’s Finance Ministry admitted it removed references to Abe and his wife, Aki, in documents dealing with the decision to give an 85 percent discount in the sale of public land to the operator of a kindergarten in Osaka to which Aki had ties.
The prime minister denied any wrongdoing, but his support, according to broadcaster Nippon TV, has slumped to 26.7 percent, the lowest since he took office in December 2012.
Meanwhile, a newspaper poll put his support at 31 percent, jeopardizing his chances of securing a third three-year term as leader of the Liberal Democratic Party.
Junichiro Koizumi, who was prime minister between 2001 and 2006 and a vocal critic of Abe’s support for nuclear power in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima disaster, told the magazine Aera on Monday that if Abe carried on, he would hurt his party’s chances in the upper house elections this summer.
“The situation is getting dangerous. Won’t Mr. Abe resign around the time parliament’s session ends [on June 20]?” Aera reported.
Over the weekend, tens of thousands of protesters gathered by Japan’s parliament demanding Abe’s resignation. Former defense minister Shigeru Ishiba has emerged as a front-runner to replace him.
Abe’s government is also under fire over allegations that Administrative Vice Finance Minister Junichi Fukuda sexually harassed a number of female journalists, claims he denies.
Abe will meet with President Donald Trump in a summit this week to discuss trade and North Korea, which has threatened to target the island nation.
There are concerns in Tokyo that the upcoming summits Trump will have with Kim Jong Un and South Korea might show Japan was taking a back seat in matters of regional security.
Jeffrey Hornung, a political scientist at the Rand Corporation, told the South China Morning Post, “Privately, I think there’s some concern about Japan being left out of the loop.
“Not ‘cut out,’ but I would say there’s a concern about Japan’s worries not being addressed at the negotiation table: things like abductees and medium-range missiles,” he elaborated.
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