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Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe addresses a plenary session at the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, Russia, Sept. 7, 2017 (AP photo).

As Scandals Dent His Approval at Home, Japan’s Abe Hobbles Along

Friday, Sept. 8, 2017

Earlier this summer, Japanese Prime Minster Shinzo Abe reshuffled his Cabinet in an attempt to repair the image of his suddenly beleaguered government, which has been hit by a series of corruption scandals. After four years of soaring, and seemingly unassailable, approval ratings, Abe has finally seen chinks in his armor, as questions even rise about his ability to serve out a third term as leader of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, or LDP. If Abe loses the grip on his own party, his goal of staying as prime minister through the 2020 Olympic games in Tokyo—and becoming Japan’s longest-serving prime minister—may be in jeopardy.

The main culprit for Abe’s drop in the polls is his inability to shake graft scandals surrounding key aides, but there are others that directly implicate him. First was the fiasco earlier this year surrounding revelations that government officials permitted the sale of state land at much reduced price to a right-wing nationalist school group, Moritomo Gakuen. Compounding that scandal is the more harmful and still unresolved question of Abe’s potential involvement in providing political favors to former friends who wanted to build a veterinary school in the southern Japanese island of Shikoku. According to Abe’s detractors, the prime minister provided an unauthorized “special exemption” to his old friend for the school’s construction. ...

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