Japan Protesters Call for ‘ Liar’ Abe to Resign Over ScandalBy
Organizers say 50, 000 demonstrated outside parliament Saturday
Abe’ s approval rating continues to drop as scandals rumble
Thousands of people joined a demonstration outside Japan’ s parliament Saturday, in a sign of growing public anger over cronyism scandals engulfing Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Organizers say about 50, 000 people attended this weekend’ s rally in Tokyo — the biggest in not quite three years. Protesters, many young, organized signs calling Abe a “ liar” and seeking his resignation.
The prime minister has been forced in parliament to deny his involvement in two controversies over land deals to close associates. An alleged cover-up over the activity of Japanese troops during the Iraq war is also casting a cloud over his government. A spokesman for Abe’ s office didn’ t immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
The scandals have pushed Abe’ s approval ratings toward all-time lows, raising questions about his ability to win the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’ s leadership election in September. Victory would put him on track to become Japan’ s longest-serving prime minister.
A Kyodo poll taken over the week-end showed a drop of 5. 4 percentage points in Abe’ s approval from a survey just two weeks earlier, tumbling to 37 percent. The disapproval rating rose to almost 53 percent. Nearly four-fifths of those surveyed said these were dissatisfied with Abe’ s explanations over a long-running scandal centering on the decision to let his good friend open a veterinary school.
’ Growing Anger’
“ The large number of people gathering is due to growing anger, ” said Takeshi Suwahara, one of the leaders of Saturday’ s protest. “ A strong sense of crisis is spreading — people now sincerely feel they have to speak out for what is right. ”
While the protests are significant in a country where people are usually reluctant to attend public demonstrations, they’re still dwarfed by rallies in the summer of 2015 over Abe’ s push to expand the powers of Japan’ s military. Organizers of those gatherings said that around 350, 000 people attended. Tokyo’ s Metropolitan Police Department said it didn’ t keep official figures for the amounts of attendees of Saturday’ s event.
“ The current protests only started last month, however the number of people joining them is going up at a pace that is faster than even in 2015, ” said Koichi Nakano, a professor of political science at Sophia University in Tokyo. “ The protesters are, of course, angry, but they also share the growing conviction that the Abe government is finally coming to an end. ”
Helped by a divided opposition and a lack of strong challengers in their own party, Abe has so far had the opportunity to shake off several scandals and a slump in support stemming from the passing of controversial laws.
However his mentor, former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, says it will be tough for Abe to win a third term as ruling party chief. “ He’ s losing public trust, ” Koizumi told reporters Saturday at an event north of Tokyo. “ Anything he says is taken as making excuses. ”