Tue, Apr 17, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Embattled Abe may step down in June: Koizumi

Reuters, TOKYO

Protesters stage a demonstration near the prime minister’s official residence in Tokyo to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on March 23.

Photo: AFP

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, plagued by suspected cronyism scandals and cover-ups and with his ratings sliding, is likely to step down in June, former leader Junichiro Koizumi was quoted yesterday as telling a weekly magazine.

A survey by broadcaster Nippon TV released on Sunday showed Abe’s support had sunk to 26.7 percent, the lowest since the conservative lawmaker took office in December 2012.

An Asahi Shimbun poll published yesterday put his rating at 31 percent.

Abe’s sliding ratings raise doubts over whether he can win a third three-year term as ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) leader in a September vote that he needs to win to stay in office, or whether he might even resign before the party vote.

Speculation has also emerged that Abe could call a snap general election as he did in October last year, when his ratings were in a similar slump.

The prime minister has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

The latest signs of trouble for Abe come ahead of his summit this week with US President Donald Trump, where the difficult topics of North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats and touchy trade matters will be on the agenda.

“The situation is getting dangerous. Won’t Mr. Abe resign around the time parliament’s session ends [on June 20]?” weekly magazine Aera’s online site quoted Koizumi as saying in an interview.

Koizumi — a critic of Abe’s support for nuclear power after the 2011 Fukushima crisis — said that if Abe hangs on, it could hurt LDP candidates in an upper house election next summer.

Crowds of protesters demonstrated near parliament on Saturday, holding signs saying “Abe is Over” and chanting “Abe quit!”

Organizers said 50,000 had participated by the time the demonstration ended.

Abe last week again denied that he had intervened to ensure preferential treatment for educational institution Kake Gakuen, run by his friend Kotaro Kake, to set up a veterinary school.

He has also repeatedly denied that he or his wife intervened in a heavily discounted sale of state-owned land to another school operator, Moritomo Gakuen, with ties to his wife.

However, the Asahi survey, in line with others, showed that two-thirds of voters do not trust his explanations.

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