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Japanese press slams Abe over minister’s suicide

JAPAN: Japanese dailies Tuesday said Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s insistence on sticking by a scandal-tainted minister was partly responsible for his suicide, and would cost him a political price.

Farm Minister Toshikatsu Matsuoka, an Abe ally who was under fire over political donations and rigged contracts, hanged himself Monday, sending shockwaves through the political establishment.

“There is no doubt that this is the most serious crisis since the Abe administration began,” the Mainichi Shimbun said in an editorial. The Nikkei business daily noted that Abe had strongly defended Matsuoka, “ignoring calls even by the ruling parties for his resignation.”

“It will be strongly questioned if the prime minister’s actions were appropriate,” the Nikkei said in an editorial. Abe, a conservative who took office in September, has watched his popularity suddenly plummet due in part to the scandals.

His coalition had earlier been expected to easily win July 22 elections for the upper house of parliament. A defeat in Abe’s first national election as premier would be a serious embarrassment, although his party could stay in power due to its majority in the lower house.

The Mainichi Shimbun said Abe may have been concerned about his own political fortunes in asking the farm minister to stay on, fearing a resignation would shake his government. “Despite demands for Farm Minister Matsuoka’s resignations over scandals, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe continued backing him,” the Mainichi said in an analysis.

“It appears that (Abe) was worried about a decline in the administration,” the daily said. “But it ended in suicide. The prime minister’s reaction backfired on him.”

Late Monday, a sullen Abe admitted responsibility, telling reporters: “As the one who appointed minister Matsuoka to the post, I feel responsible for the action taken by a cabinet member.” The conservative Sankei Shimbun said in an editorial: “Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s responsibility is not small. It will be severely damaging to the administration ahead of the upper house election.”

Tokyo, Tuesday, AFP.

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