Japan's Shinzo Abe Stumbles on Response to Cronyism Allegations

Japan's Shinzo Abe Stumbles on Response to Cronyism Allegations

This is the LDP's second major electoral setback in three weeks, as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's party suffers the fallout from a series of gaffes and scandals that has sunk his once-Teflon ratings to new lows.

Abe and aides deny intervening to help the friend win approval for a veterinary school.

Abe said he only sought reforms for the sector and did not directly get involved in the decision on his friend's application. "I have never advised him to visit the ministers in charge".

Opposition parties scrambled to rally behind Kori.

Opposition Democratic Party senior lawmaker Hiroshi Ogushi told lawmakers on Monday that Abe and Kake met seven times a year ago, six of them after July when the school plan was being pushed.

Abe told the lawmakers he was not asked by his friend for help in gaining approval for the opening of the school in the city of Imabari, on the south-western island of Shikoku.

Ishiba was seen as the most appropriate choice for prime minister by 20.4 percent of respondents to the poll conducted by the Sankei newspaper and FNN TV network, while 19.7 percent picked Abe.

Given the lack of significant center-left alternatives or strong rivals within his party, Abe's tenure as prime minister is not under immediate threat.

Kihei Maekawa, former vice minister of Japan's Education Ministry, who has indicated that Abe's influence was used to pass the ministry's approval to build the school, kept his stance at the session.

The prime minister is expected to reshuffle his Cabinet early next month in a bid to restore support.

During the parliamentary hearings, several witnesses, including ministry officials and former members of an Abe-commissioned panel promoting deregulation, said they were not directly instructed by Abe to approve the school.

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