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Three-fourths not convinced by gov't explanations on Moritomo, Kake controversies

In this file photo dated June 18, 2018, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks in the Diet. (Mainichi)

TOKYO -- A Mainichi Shimbun poll conducted over the weekend found 75 percent of respondents were not convinced by the explanations of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and other government officials on favoritism allegations surrounding educational institutions linked to Abe and his wife.

Just 14 percent, meanwhile, said Prime Minister Abe's explanations regarding school operators Moritomo Gakuen and Kake Gakuen were acceptable.

Moritomo Gakuen, whose top officials had ties with Prime Minister Abe's wife Akie, received a discount of hundreds of millions of yen when purchasing a government land plot. Later, Financial Ministry officials involved in the transaction were punished for falsifying related documents. The leader of Kake Educational Institution, meanwhile, is a close friend of Abe's, and opposition parties accused the prime minister of favoritism in connection with a veterinary school project undertaken by the institution. The prime minister denies his involvement in both cases.

In the Mainichi Shimbun telephone poll conducted on July 28 and 29, 61 percent of respondents said Abe is "responsible" for both the Moritomo and Kake cases. This figure is close to that recorded in a poll in June, when 60 percent blamed Abe. Those who said Abe bore no responsibility stood at 26 percent, compared with 24 percent the previous month. These figures indicate that the public still harbors questions over the two cases.

When asked for their position on the death penalty, 59 percent said the ultimate punishment should remain, while 10 percent said they were opposed to it. Twenty-two percent said they don't know whether it should remain or be abolished. These responses came on the heels of the executions of 13 former AUM Shinrikyo cult members who had been on death row over a series of terrorism attacks and murders. Ex-AUM leader Shoko Asahara, whose real name was Chizuo Matsumoto, was one of the hanged convicts.

When asked about which candidates they favored for the upcoming election to select the leader of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), Prime Minister Abe remained at the top of the list as he did last month, with 22 percent supporting him to serve a third term as LDP leader. Former LDP Secretary General Shigeru Ishiba and Shinjiro Koizumi, chief deputy secretary-general and son of former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, shared second place with a 19 percent support rate. In the June poll Ishiba and Koizumi had received support rates of 17 percent and 18 percent, respectively. A total of 21 percent of respondents said they did not support a specific candidate, up 3 percentage points from the previous month. Among LDP supporters, 50 percent supported Abe.

As for Prime Minister Abe's initiative to seek direct talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un following the U.S.-North Korean summit in June, 65 percent said they are positive about Tokyo trying to establish a dialogue with Pyongyang, while 22 percent were negative about such an approach.

As for constitutional revisions, which the current administration is pursing, 57 percent said there is no need to hurry to propose the revisions in the Diet. Twenty-six percent said the government should speed up moves to amend the Constitution.

(Japanese original by Kazuki Kuraoka, Poll Office)

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