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Scandal intensifies around Japan’s Shinzo Abe as opposition mulls call for testimony

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Scandal intensifies around Japan’s Shinzo Abe as opposition mulls call for testimony

20160601-shinzo-abe-tax-hike
20160601-shinzo-abe-tax-hike
Photo: Frank Robichon/EPA

Japan’s opposition will today debate whether to compel the country’s former tax chief to testify before parliament. Nobuhisa Sagawa is believed to have knowledge about the manipulation of official documents detailing why state land was sold at a fraction of its market price to a company linked to PM Abe’s wife.

While Abe is a resilient leader—just last July the PM’s poll numbers slipped below 30% before quickly recovering to 55%—the latest scandal has the potential to destroy his support within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

A sign of this came on Wednesday when, in an unusual turn of events, an LDP lawmaker questioned Mr Abe about the document manipulation, forcing the conservative leader to deny involvement.

A potential tipping point is the fate of Finance Minister Taro Aso, who oversees the ministry responsible for the documents in question. Aso commands loyal support from a faction within the LDP; if forced out, he may shift his support away from Abe in a crucial party leadership vote in September.

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At risk are Mr Abe’s trademark ultra-loose monetary policy and fiscal stimulus settings and his plan to revise Japan’s pacifist constitution.

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