The Daily Manila Shimbun


Abe sidestepping favoritism scandals, constitutional revision

October 19, 2017

TOKYO- With Japan's general election approaching on Sunday, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been sidestepping mentions in his speeches of his government's alleged favoritism on private school plans and his controversial proposal to revise the country's constitution.The president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party is apparently trying to stop these sensitive issues from causing negative impacts on the ruling camp's performance in the House of Representatives election, but the strategy is drawing criticism from the opposition camp.

"Japan's gross domestic product increased 50 trillion yen, the stock market hit a 21-year high, and the number of tourists from abroad went up to 24 million," Abe said in a street speech in Noshiro, Akita Prefecture, northeastern Japan, highlighting the achievements of his administration.

But the prime minister made no mention of the favoritism scandals, about which he promised to give in-depth explanations in a press conference on Sept. 25 to announce his decision to dissolve the Lower House for the snap election.

Abe also did not touch on his long-cherished goal of revising the constitution's war-renouncing Article 9 to clarify the rationale for the existence of the Self-Defense Forces, which is an issue that has split public opinion.

An official close to Abe said, "There's no need to use negative keywords."

His speeches have focused on three topics: responses to North Korean provocations, the achievements of his administration, including the fruits of his Abenomics economic policy, and measures to address the declining birthrate and improve the social security system.

Regarding the favoritism scandals, involving Moritomo Gakuen and Kake Educational Institution, Abe said on television on Sept. 9 that he will answer related questions asked in such forums, but will refrain from discussing the matter in street speeches.

Another key issue absent from Abe's speeches is the country's plan to introduce integrated resorts featuring casinos, which has caused public concern about gambling addiction. Casino promotion is part of the LDP's campaign pledges.

The prime minister also has not discussed the government's goal of introducing a system to exclude highly skilled professionals from work hour regulations, a step criticized as a zero overtime pay system by opposition parties.

The opposition camp is wary of the possibility of Abe aggressively pushing forward with these sensitive issues after the election.

At the time of the previous Lower House election in 2014, Abe tried not to make proposed national security laws become a focus of the race. He accelerated efforts to enact the laws after his party won a landslide victory in the election. Jiji Press