Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister of Japan, finds himself drowning in a cronyism scandal that has since flooded Japan, with protestors up and about demanding his resignation and his popularity plunging the depths. It has been confirmed by the Finance Ministry that 14 documents had been doctored in a sale of public land linked to the Abe family. The land was apparently sold at a whopping 85% discount, well below market price, in a deal with school operator Moritomo Gakuen, which had ties to Abe’s wife, Akie.
To add to the already murky waters, a financial official committed suicide in his Kobe home last week, leaving behind a suicide note that details how he had been forced to alter financial records for the government. He feared he would have been made scapegoat for the scandal.
Abe has so far insisted his hands are clean. In a statement in parliament, he shifted the blame to “some staff members” in the ministry for the document alterations, claiming he “never ordered the changes”. When the issue first surfaced earlier last year, Abe and his wife had vowed to step down if they were to be found linked to the land deal. This may very well happen, after all, some are saying that he is losing grip over the situation.
Why is this important?
In a culture where relationship brokering is commonplace, and where it is difficult to draw the line between professional and personal relationships, this piece of news is not surprising. We need not look far beyond our shores (read: across the causeway) to see how cushy ties between key political leaders and top businessmen have allowed cronyism to flourish.
Of course, findings have not yet been conclusive, and Prime Minister Abe has some time to defend allegations and try to regain support before elections in September this year. Whether or not he will be given a second chance and continue on as Japan’s longest serving Prime Minister will be left up to his people.