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World Japan’s Cherry Blossom Scandal Starts to Drag Down Abe’s Support

07:50  02 december  2019
07:50  02 december  2019 Source:   bloomberg.com

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Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe saw his support rating slide amid questions about whether he rewarded supporters with invitations to a publicly funded cherry blossom -viewing party. Shinzo Abe and guests pose for pictures during his cherry blossom viewing party in Tokyo on April 13.

TOKYO (BLOOMBERG) - Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe saw his support rating slide amid questions about whether he rewarded supporters with invitations to a publicly funded cherry blossom -viewing party.

(Bloomberg) -- Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe saw his support rating slide amid questions about whether he rewarded supporters with invitations to a publicly funded cherry blossom-viewing party.

a group of people walking down a street next to a tree: People walk under illuminated cherry trees in bloom at night in Tokyo, Japan, on Friday, April 1, 2016.© Bloomberg People walk under illuminated cherry trees in bloom at night in Tokyo, Japan, on Friday, April 1, 2016.

Support for the cabinet fell 6 percentage points in November to hit 42%, according to a poll published Monday in the Mainichi newspaper, the lowest since Abereshuffled his ministers two months ago. Respondents cited the cherry blossom scandal, which opposition lawmakers have used to slow the ruling party’s legislative agenda, as a source of their displeasure.

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The opposition has accused Abe of misdirecting public funds to supporters from his home constituency by giving them invitations to exclusive Tokyo package tours to attend an annual party at the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden. The scandal has deepened amid questions about whether organized crime figures were among the attendees and whether crucial documents including the guest list were inappropriately shredded.

While Abe has endured worse controversies to become the country’s longest-serving prime minister last month, the cherry blossom flap is one of several involving favored treatment of political supporters to rattle the cabinet in recent weeks. Separate campaign finance scandals have already prompted the resignations of two cabinet ministers since Abe appointed the new government in September.

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The most recent cherry blossom event in April attracted about 18,000 people and pictures on the website of the prime minister’s office show a smiling Abe posing with celebrities, some of them dressed in colorful kimonos. Abe’s government has said it won’t hold the event next year, breaking an almost 70-year run.

A decline in support could influence whether Abe decides to call an election early next year before Tokyo hosts the 2020 Olympics.

The government said that the decision to shred the guest list had nothing to do with the looming questions about it in parliament. Some 72% of those surveyed in the Mainichi poll said they couldn’t accept that explanation, compared with 13% who said they could.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jon Herskovitz in Tokyo at jherskovitz@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Brendan Scott at bscott66@bloomberg.net, Daniel Ten Kate

For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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