Japan’s Shinzo Abe tipped to resign in June as cronyism scandals take toll


Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, is likely to resign in June after two cronyism scandals sent his approval ratings to an all-time low and risk damaging his party’s fortunes in elections next year, according to one of Japan’s most popular postwar leaders. Junichiro Koizumi, a flamboyant reformer who was prime minister from 2001-06, told a weekly magazine published on Monday that Abe has found himself in a “dangerous” situation over the scandals, adding: “Won’t he resign around the time the current parliamentary session ends [on 20 June]?”Speaking to Aera magazine, Koizumi said Abe could harm his Liberal Democratic party’s chances in next summer’s upper house elections if he manages to cling on to the LDP presidency in a leadership election due in September.

Abe has been badly bruised by allegations of cronyism centering on the heavily discounted sale of public land to the operator of an ultra-nationalist kindergarten in Osaka with links to his wife, Akie Abe. He has consistently denied any wrongdoing, and said he would resign if he or his wife were shown to have been intervened in the sale of the land.

The finance ministry recently admitted to tampering with documents to remove references to Abe and his wife in papers relating to the decision to provide an 85% discount on the appraised value of the land. He is also alleged to have used his influence to help a friend secure permission to open a veterinary school – claims he has rejected. Last week, however, an official document emerged describing the veterinary school as “an issue that involves the prime minister”.

Although he shares Abe’s hawkish views on defence, Koizumi has emerged as a vocal critic of the prime minister’s support for nuclear power. Abe wants to expand nuclear’s share of the energy mix, while Koizumi has called for its abolition following the March 2011 meltdown in Fukushima.(theguardian)…[+]