Political pressure key question in Japan land scandal testimony

Abe mired in cronyism scandal, facing increasing calls for cabinet's resignation

Abe mired in cronyism scandal, facing increasing calls for cabinet's resignation

The opposition cites Abe's assertion in the Diet in February 2017 that he would "resign as both prime minister and as a lawmaker if either my wife or I are found to have been involved in arranging or approving the sale".

Opposition MPs have called for the entire cabinet to resign.

The Asahi's poll, conducted on Saturday and Sunday, said its approval rate had tanked to 31 percent - the lowest since Abe took office for the second time in December 2012.

He also said passages citing Akie and other lawmakers made up "only a portion" of the documents and that they were deleted nearly completely in the doctored version, suggesting that it was not the case that particular consideration was paid to him or his wife.

He also pointed out that the Moritomo-related documents released March 12 by the Finance Ministry contained no mention that either he or his wife was involved in the negotiations. A Mainichi Shimbun poll similarly found 68 percent believe Abe bears responsibility.

Aso has blamed the alterations on "some staff members" at the ministry.

The affair emerged early previous year, but resurfaced after the revelation that finance ministry documents related to the sale had been changed.

As per certain media reports, Akie Abe had facilitated Kagoike to purchase the land illegally at a lower price thus inviting charges under cronyism which includes partially awarding jobs and other political advantages to the relatives.

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With the public apparently unconvinced by the prime minister's denials, the results of the latest Kyodo News poll show that 25.4 percent of the respondents think former Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba, Abe's main political rival, is the person who should be elected as next head of the LDP in September.

"We want Sagawa to tell as much of the truth as he can, and cooperate in ascertaining the facts", LDP Diet affairs chief Hiroshi Moriyama said.

While vowing to thoroughly investigate the protracted and still-unfolding scandal to definitively explaine why the documents related to the dubious sale were deliberately altered, Abe admitted that a recent plunge in support ratings were of serious concern. She has also been criticized for appearing at public events while Abe refused to let her testify in parliament.

But Jiro Yamaguchi, a politics professor at Hosei University in Tokyo, said the public was "not at all convinced" by this explanation.

If Abe is to be replaced, it will require an internal power struggle within the LDP, and the opposition camp will play no part, Matsumoto said.

The opposition had threatened to boycott Diet deliberations if their demands for Sagawa's testimony were denied.

Japanese PM Shinzo Abe saw his support tumble as public anger continues to rise over cronyism.

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