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Abe mum on Moritomo, Kake scandals as opposition parties ratchet up criticism

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe delivers his first campaign speech in the city of Fukushima on Oct. 10, 2017. (Mainichi)

Japan's four major opposition parties, the Party of Hope, the Japanese Communist Party (JCP), the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDP) and the Social Democratic Party (SDP) criticized Prime Minister Shinzo Abe over scandals centering on allegations of favoritism as campaigning for the Oct. 22 House of Representatives election began on Oct. 10.

Abe seeks to score a ruling coalition victory in the general election and put the scandals involving Moritomo Gakuen and Kake Educational Institution behind him, but with the onslaught from the opposition parties, it appears he will remain on the back foot for the time being.

Plans by Kake Educational Institution to open a new veterinary school came to fruition through the utilization of a so-called National Strategic Special Zone. The Party of Hope pointed a finger at the relationship between Abe and the director of the institution, who are close friends, saying it was a case of "treating one's friends well," and said there was a problem with the use of the zones, which the Abe administration has touted as a pillar of the nation's growth strategies.

In her opening campaign speech on Oct. 10, Party of Hope leader Yuriko Koike commented, "The administration has been extended this far without us being able to secure trust in politics. Let us end the system of politics in which Abe alone wields power."

Yukio Edano of the newly formed CDP, meanwhile, criticized Abe in front of voters in Sendai, saying the prime minister was taking power into his own hands. "Information is hidden and then politicians play it dumb and turn defiant," he said.

In a news conference on Sept. 25 when announcing the dissolution of the lower house, Abe stated, "I'm not evading pursuit (over the scandals); rather I'm holding an election while facing criticism and explaining the situation to voters." However, in a TBS television program on Oct. 9, when JCP leader Kazuo Shii asked Abe, "Don't you have any intention of providing an explanation in your first campaign speech?" Abe toned down, saying, "Rather than explaining things in a stump speech, there will be another session in the Diet, so I'll provide an explanation there."

When Abe spoke in his first campaign speech in Fukushima Prefecture on Oct. 10, he did not refer to the Moritomo and Kake scandals at all.

In his opening campaign address on Oct. 10, Shii raised questions about Abe's stance, saying, "He's doggedly trying to steer through it all by sitting on the issue." Meanwhile, in a speech to voters in Usuki, Oita Prefecture, SDP leader Tadatomo Yoshida noted, "The extraordinary Diet session was just 1 minute 40 seconds long. The lower house was dissolved without any debate at all."

In his own speech on Oct. 10, Abe presented veiled criticism of the opposition parties for splitting and uniting against the ruling coalition, saying, "When the LDP was an opposition party, it really was unpopular. But it didn't go changing its name or think of just trying to sell an image."

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