While Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is believed to have solidified his intention to dissolve the House of Representatives at the outset of the extraordinary Diet session scheduled to be convened on Sept. 28 and call a snap election for October, Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai fended off criticism over the government's handling of the ongoing favoritism scandals involving two school operators by saying, "We have no intention of hiding such minor, I mean, those issues."
Is that really true? If so, why not be confident and hold deliberations in the Diet?
The ruling coalition of the LDP and Komeito is mulling moving straight toward the dissolution of the lower house at the beginning of the upcoming Diet session without holding party leader debate or budget committee deliberations. As soon as a campaign for a general election kicks off, each political party spends most of its time unilaterally making its own arguments to plead to voters. It is therefore likely that the key task of the upcoming Diet session, which is to unveil the truth about the accusations and suspicions involving Abe himself, will be neglected.
The government and ruling parties deserve criticism that the planned lower house dissolution is aimed at hiding the truth.
Nikai might have made the remark to stress that those issues surrounding school operators Kake Educational Institution and Moritomo Gakuen are insignificant. However, the chairman of the Kake group, which plans to open the first vet school in the country in about 50 years, is a longtime friend of the prime minister, and Abe's wife Akie was at one point appointed as honorary principal of an elementary school that Moritomo Gakuen had planned to open.
What lies at the core of these issues is the suspicion that these connections might have worked in favor of the school operators. In other words, this is a matter concerning the fundamentals of politics that questions administrative fairness.
These unresolved issues are linked to the sharp decline in the approval ratings of the Cabinet of Prime Minister Abe due to growing distrust in Abe himself among the public and the LDP's humiliating defeat in the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly election this past July.
Even Abe admitted to the lack of an explanation over the matter during a news conference in June, saying, "We're not necessarily winning people's understanding," and promised to provide "a thorough account in a sincere manner."
Furthermore, more questions and doubts have surfaced over both these Kake and Moritomo affairs following news reports and investigations by opposition lawmakers, after the ordinary Diet session came to a close, and it has cast a doubt over the authenticity of accounts given by bureaucrats in the past and explanations of the events.
Even today, the majority of respondents in different opinion polls say the explanations given by the government were insufficient. Many members of the public have not forgotten about those suspicious affairs.
Isn't calling these issues "minor" and trying to skip through Diet deliberations proof that the government and ruling party officials are seeing them as something that could make or break their election success? In fact, because these are grave issues, Abe and his cronies must be trying to avoid rekindling interest in these scandals among the public.