World

Abe’s support flags after school scandal

SUPPORT for Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe slumped more than 10 points to 44.9 percent in a public opinion poll published yesterday, amid opposition party suspicions he used his influence unfairly to help a friend set up a business.

Abe has repeatedly denied abusing his authority to benefit his friend. His grip on power is not in danger, given his ruling coalition’s huge majority in parliament, but the affair looks unlikely to fade away.

The education ministry unearthed documents last week that the opposition said suggested Abe wanted a new veterinary school run by a friend to be approved in a state-run special economic zone. The ministry earlier said it could not find the documents but reopened the probe under public pressure.

Opposition politicians and the media have identified Abe’s friend as Kotaro Kake, the director of the Kake Educational Institution, which wants to open a veterinary department. The government has rejected new veterinary schools for decades because of fears of a glut.

Nearly 85 percent of voters responding to a Kyodo survey said they did not think the government had uncovered the truth and almost 74 percent were not persuaded by the government’s insistence that there was nothing wrong with the approval process. Voters were split over last week’s parliamentary of a law that will penalize conspiracies to commit terrorism and other serious crimes.

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