(Yomiuri: January 24, 2016 – p. 4)
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has maintained a wait-and-see attitude with regard to a weekly magazine’s report that Economic Revitalization Minister Akira Amari received illegal political donations. While certain ruling party members worried about the House of Councillors election this summer are calling for Amari’s resignation, Kantei (Prime Minister’s Official Residence) is not keen on replacing him. This is because the fate of Amari, a key political ally of Abe and a major executor of Abenomics policies, may affect the economic situation, which is the Abe administration’s lifeline.
Amari, who has been economic revitalization minister since the second Abe cabinet took off in 2012, has played a leading role in requesting companies to raise wages and cutting the corporate tax rate and contributed to maintaining stock prices, which is one of the factors behind the Abe administration’s stability.
The business sector is also of the opinion that “the achievements made so far would not have been possible without Mr. Amari’s splendid work,” according to Keidanren (Japan Business Federation) Chairman Sadayuki Sakakibara. What happens to Amari is also likely to affect the stock market.
When told that his alleged scandal was one reason behind the wild fluctuations in the stock market at a news conference on Jan. 22, Amari said: “If my (scandal) has something to do with the anxiety (in the market), I must make efforts to clear the allegations as soon as possible.”
While government officials believe that “Mr. Amari’s resignation will affect the driving force for Abenomics from now on,” according to a senior official, they also face the dilemma that negative public opinion on this scandal may destabilize the administration at a whole. Although the government and the ruling parties will decide whether Amari should resign after he releases his report on the scandal in the next few days, it is thought that “whether he keeps his job or not, the road ahead will be bumpy,” according to a government source.
Amari also has close personal relations with Abe. He was minister of economy, trade and industry in the first Abe cabinet of 2006-2007. Amari served as Abe’s campaign manager in the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) presidential election of 2012 where Abe made his political comeback.
Amari became minister in charge of the TPP in March 2013, but once expressed his desire to resign in November to concentrate on treating his tongue cancer. Abe strongly urged him to stay in his job at that time. A veteran LDP lawmaker says that “the Prime Minister most probably wants to protect Mr. Amari.” (Slightly abridged)