Saturday, 20 October, 2018

Corruption: Japan PM Abe, finance minister under fire

Deutsche Bank’s Torsten Slok discusses the U.S. February jobs Deutsche Bank’s Torsten Slok discusses the U.S. February jobs
Jay Anderson | 13 March, 2018, 11:24

The government's admission Monday that documents linked to a controversial land sale had been altered in a possible cover-up added fuel to a scandal that has long dogged Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, threatening his once-unassailable standing in the ruling party.

The scandal emerged previous year and concerns the sale of land to a supporter of Abe at a price said to be around one tenth of its market value.

Meanwhile, opposition lawmakers stepped up their offensive, boycotting parliament debates while demanding key figures in the scandal including Mr Abe's wife Akie, be summoned to testify. It is "inconceivable" that bureaucrats had been acting in accordance with Abe's wishes, he said. Local media reported that the unnamed person committed suicide.

Opposition politicians have alleged that the buyer of the land, a right-wing operator of private schools, was able to clinch the sale at such a favourable price because of his ties to the Abe family.

Last year, Yasunori Kagoike, the head of the school operator, told parliament that he had received JPY1 million from Akie Abe in 2015.

How damaging is this for Abe?

.

It's hard to handicap if Mr. Abe will survive the investigation which at first glance shows clear signs of corruption and cover-up.

"If Aso leaves the government, the cabinet would surely be destabilised", the Yomiuri Shimbun said on Tuesday.

The backing of Aso, 77, who doubles as deputy premier, is vital to Abe's bid for a third term and a key factor in the stability of his administration.




Aso told a separate news conference that several officials at his ministry's division in charge of the sale were involved in altering the documents to make them conform with testimony in parliament by the then-head of the division.

Already public anger is growing.

Abe and Aso will try to contain the damage until the furor subsides.

Some analysts, however, say Aso's resignation could be inevitable. Yukio Edano, leader of the constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, said the document doctoring by the ministry "shakes the foundation of Japan's democracy".

The response of senior LDP lawmakers such as party Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai will be critical to any effort to protect Aso, as well as to containing the fallout for Abe.

"But I think there's enough here now that as you approach the preparation for the LDP elections in September, there is going to be a sense in the party of 'You know what, enough of the drama and more than a whiff of scandal". Aso said the changes to the documents were made as instructed by the Financial Bureau.

The dollar was down 0.15% at 106.28 yen as the political scandal put the future of Abe's economic policies in doubt and pushed it off last week's high of 107.00.

A bigger concern is that the scandal could kickoff a period of political instability.

U.S. President Donald Trump imposed import tariffs on steel and aluminum, while softening his stance by announcing exemptions for Canada and Mexico, and leaving open the chance for other countries to obtain their own.

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