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66% of voters don’t buy Abe’s statements about scandals, Asahi poll

The Abe Cabinet’s disapproval rate surpassed 50 percent as the majority of voters doubt the explanations given by individuals and the prime minister himself over a pair of scandals, an Asahi Shimbun survey showed.


The weekend nationwide survey found that the Cabinet’s approval rate was only 31 percent, a figure unchanged from the March poll, while the ratio of voters who disapprove of the administration rose to 52 percent from 48 percent.


Abe has denied giving any orders or playing any role in government decisions that benefited two educational institutions that are connected to the prime minister or his wife.


A combined 31 percent of respondents said they “greatly” or “somewhat trusted” Abe’s recent statements and actions, compared with 66 percent who said they have “no” or “little trust.”


One recent question directed at the Abe administration is the role played by Tadao Yanase when he was an executive secretary to Abe concerning the approval of a veterinary medicine faculty planned by the Kake Educational Institution, which is headed by a close friend of the prime minister.


A memo written by an Ehime prefectural government official quoted Yanase as saying at a meeting with local officials that approval of the faculty was “a matter related to the prime minister.”


Yanase has repeatedly insisted he has no recollection of meeting with Ehime prefectural or Imabari municipal government officials.


Seventy-six percent of respondents said they were not convinced by the explanations of Abe and Yanase.


Opposition parties are demanding that Yanase testify in the Diet about his role in the Kake Educational Institution issue as a sworn witness, which would make him liable for perjury.


Seventy-two percent of all respondents, and even 56 percent of supporters of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, said Yanase should be summoned to the Diet.


In another scandal, questions have been repeatedly raised over why the Finance Ministry gave school operator Moritomo Gakuen a huge discount on its purchase of state-owned land in Toyonaka, Osaka Prefecture.


The survey mentioned recent revelations that Finance Ministry officials had asked Moritomo Gakuen to lie about the volume of waste found on the land.


Eighty-three percent of respondents said there was a “major problem” with the ministry’s request.


Ministry officials also falsified documents related to the land deal.


Nobuhisa Sagawa, who was director-general of the Finance Ministry’s Financial Bureau when the documents were altered, testified in the Diet that Abe did not give instructions for the falsifications.


However, 77 percent of respondents in the Asahi poll said they were not satisfied with Sagawa’s explanation.


Opposition parties argue that the waste volume was inflated in an attempt to justify the sharp discount for the land. They also contend that the price was slashed because of the close relationship between first lady Akie Abe and the former director of the school operator.


Sixty-one percent of respondents said Akie, who had been named honorary principal of an elementary school that Moritomo Gakuen planned to open on the land, should testify in the Diet about the scandal as one way to resolve the issue.


In yet another document scandal, daily logs from the dispatch to Iraq of Ground Self-Defense Force members were found after Defense Ministry officials insisted those records did not exist.


Seventy-five percent of respondents said they felt civilian control of the SDF was no longer in place.


A combined 59 percent of respondents said they “greatly” or “somewhat” felt that problems have surfaced because of the long period in which Abe has been in charge of the government.


A combined 37 percent said they felt there were “no” or “few” problems arising from Abe’s long tenure at the top.


Among LDP supporters, 56 percent felt the problems were emerging because Abe has been prime minister since December 2012.


Abe is scheduled to meet with U.S. President Donald Trump in Florida on April 17-18. Half of all respondents said they have high expectations for the summit, while 44 percent said they do not.


The Asahi Shimbun placed calls with randomly selected landline and mobile phone numbers for the April 14-15 survey. Valid responses were received from 945 voters contacted at landline numbers and 966 contacted via their mobile phones.

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