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Japan’s conservative Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has proven in the past to know when to strike and when to hold back in matters of political opportunity.
He is therefore very well aware that today is not the time for grand speeches or appearances as his Finance Ministry has shamefully admitted that they doctored official documents to provide Mr Abe’s spouse, Akie, with an 85% discount on the appraised value of the land she was about to purchase.
Mr Abe admitted that this “could undermine trust in the entire government” before adding: “I deeply apologize to the people.”
A few months earlier, when the scandal first came to light, the Japanese prime minister had assured the public that he would offer his resignation should he or his spouse be any way involved in cutting the price of public land sold to a right-wing school operator in Osaka.
The original document showed that Mr Abe’s wife Akie had recommended the project to “move forward because it is a good plot of land”. In a later version, this recommendation was omitted and the price lowered.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his close ally, Finance Minister Taro Aso, face growing pressure over a suspected cover-up of a cronyism scandal <a href="https://t.co/diykeK2732">https://t.co/diykeK2732</a> <a href="https://t.co/5xElOcdJ4C">pic.twitter.com/5xElOcdJ4C</a></p>— Reuters World (@ReutersWorld) <a href="https://twitter.com/ReutersWorld/status/973138305809309697?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">March 12, 2018</a></blockquote>
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Furthermore, an article in which the PM’s spouse is described as being “moved to tears by the school’s education policy”, was also taken out of the final version of the document.
However, the forgery not only puts pressure on Mr Abe, but also on his long-serving finance minister, Mr Taro Aso.
Mr Tobias Harris, a political analyst in Japan, concluded that: “Right now, I don’t think there’s enough of a smoking gun to force Abe out prematurely.”
“I think it will be very difficult to convince senior LDP officials that he deserves another three-year term.”