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Abe, Suga deferring to Aso in handling vice finance minister’s alleged sexual harassment

  • April 18, 2018
  • , Yomiuri , p. 2
  • JMH Translation
  • ,

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga are leaving the fate of Vice Finance Minister Junichi Fukuda in the hands of Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Taro Aso. It is believed that they are not in a position to put any pressure on Aso because he heads the second largest faction in the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and has given strong support to Abe and his administration.

 

Suga told a news conference on April 17: “The Finance Ministry is investigating the facts. The finance minister, who appointed the vice minister, is dealing with this matter.” He appeared to be keeping his distance from the Fukuda scandal.

 

Up until now, Suga has taken the lead in tackling the various scandals that have hit the government, so many think that he will also be the one to “give notice” to Fukuda. However, if Fukuda is also dismissed after former National Tax Agency Commissioner Nobuhisa Sagawa was punished over the sale of government land to Moritomo Gakuen, there will be growing calls to question Aso’s responsibility. Abe and Suga would at least like to avoid adding to this momentum.

 

Even the Prime Minister’s aides are dissatisfied with how Aso is handling the matter. One aide said: “We thought he would either apologize or sack Fukuda. This came as a surprise.” The same is true for senior LDP officials. Secretary General Toshihiro Nikai commented on the scandals involving the Finance Ministry at a news conference on April 17. He stated: “This is annoying. We would like to settle the issues and create an environment for orderly deliberations in the Diet as soon as possible.” A veteran lawmaker criticized Aso by name, accusing him of being “too indulgent.”

 

Abe, who shows deference to Aso, is also beginning to come under fire. Hiromi Yoshida, LDP Secretary General in the House of Councillors, stated at his fundraising party in Tokyo on April 17: “The Prime Minister’s biggest shortcoming is that he protects his friends no matter what. It is also important to clearly say no when something is wrong.”

 

The opposition is demanding the speedy dismissal of Fukuda. Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan Diet Affairs Committee chief Kiyomi Tsuji pointed out to reporters on April 17: “They are trying to obscure the issue to protect Mr. Aso because they are afraid there will be a chain reaction of resignations.”

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