Public Support for Japan Cabinet Down by 9.2% Over Abe's Corruption Scandal

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Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, left, and Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso are seen during intensive deliberations at the House of Councillors Budget Committee, on March 19, 2018.

The opposition bloc went on the offensive, seemingly encouraged by the Cabinet's plummeting public support rates in several opinion polls over the weekend.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's office was aware in early March of potential problems with documents about a controversial land sale to a school operator with ties to Abe's wife, his top spokesman has said, amid suspicions of a cover-up.

Ministry officials said the land deal documents were altered from late February to April past year at the instruction of the financial bureau, the ministry department in charge of state property transactions, mostly at its regional unit in Osaka. The scandal has since snowballed with the release of information that Abe's wife, Akie Abe, was honorary principal of the planned school and allegations that she donated 1 million yen-about $8,800-to Moritomo Gakuen.

A Friday survey had a similar drop in support but only 40.4 percent said then that they did not support Abe.

"I have never ordered changes", he said.

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

"She is the wife of the prime minister, someone that ministry officials need to give more consideration to than the average Diet member", Koike said during the Upper House session.

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A Kyodo poll Saturday showed 66.1% of respondents thought he had some responsibility.

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.

The opposition may also seek broader answers about the Abes' links to the land sale and how the price was negotiated.

In an LDP presidential election, half the votes are cast by representatives of its regional chapters, who are more likely to be affected by the sentiments of the general public.

If the Cabinet's approval ratings continue to fall, it could provide "just cause" for some LDP executives to rebel against Abe in the September election, said Masao Matsumoto, a professor of political science at Saitama University and an expert in opinion poll analysis.

If Sagawa's appearance fails to bear fruit, the opposition could strengthen calls for Akie Abe's sworn testimony, something the government has refused to authorize.

Nobuhisa Sagawa is set to give sworn testimony in the Diet regarding the doctoring of documents detailing the cut-rate land sale to a nationalist school operator in Osaka.