An ally of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe yesterday denied receiving secret political donations from an educational institution at the core of a scandal over suspected favoritism that has hurt Abe’s support ratings ahead of a key local poll.
Former Japanese minister of education, culture, sports, science and technology Hakubun Shimomura, who heads the Tokyo chapter of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), made the comments at a hastily called news conference just days before Sunday’s election for the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly.
The vote is on the surface a referendum on Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike’s first year in office, but it is also shaping up as a chance for voters to express their views on Abe’s administration.
Abe’s support slumped in surveys released last week on voter concerns about suspicions that he helped a friend get permission to open a veterinary school in a special economic zone and criticism his ruling bloc rammed a contentious bill through the legislature and ended the session to close off debate.
Abe and his aides have repeatedly denied any wrongdoing in the approval process for the new school to be run by Kake Gakuen (Kake Educational Institution).
Shimomura said an article in the weekly magazine Shukan Bunshun that said his political support group had received ￥2 million (US$17,782) in unreported donations from Kake Gakuen was “completely false” and that the timing of the article was an attempt to affect the Tokyo poll.
“I have never received political donations from Kake Gakuen nor did it buy [fundraising] party tickets,” Shimomura said.
“The fact that an article, which is completely false, has been written at this critical time must be considered as intended to interfere in the election,” Shimomura said, adding that he was consulting lawyers about legal action.
Koike is aiming for her new Tokyo Residents First Association and its allies to win a majority in the 127-seat assembly, while the LDP hopes to keep its status as the biggest party.
Abe’s government suffered embarrassment this week when Japanese Minister of Defense Tomomi Inada sought voter support in the Tokyo race, saying the request was “from the defense ministry, the [Japan] Self-Defense Forces, the defense minister and the LDP.”
By law, the military must be politically neutral. Inada withdrew the remarks and Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga rebuffed calls for her resignation.
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