Diet Investigation Of Kihei Maekawa To Proceed Without PM Abe Present

LDP Lawmaker  Under Investigation For Favoritism

Japan's ruling and opposition parties agreed Tuesday to briefly reopen the Diet next week for one-off committee deliberations, with plans to investigate a former top bureaucrat at the education ministry who has come forward alleging favoritism by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
The agreement came shortly after the main opposition Democratic Party spurned an offer by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party for committee deliberations on July 10 or 11, on the grounds that Abe would be unable to attend them due to an overseas trip.

Meeting with LDP Diet Affairs Committee Chairman Wataru Takeshita for a second time on Tuesday, Democratic Party Diet affairs chief Kazunori Yamanoi agreed to hold committee deliberations on July 10 after the LDP consented to summoning Kihei Maekawa as an unsworn witness.

Maekawa, a former vice minister of education, culture, sports, science and technology, is likely to be asked about allegations that Abe has used his power as prime minister to help Kake Educational Institution, whose president is a close friend, open a veterinary medicine department in a special economic zone.

Emboldened by the LDP's crushing defeat in Sunday's Tokyo metropolitan assembly election, the Democratic Party and several other opposition parties agreed earlier in the day to call for committee deliberations or a new session of the Diet, amid a number of scandals dogging the government and ruling party.

With Abe scheduled not to return to Japan until July 12, the committee deliberations in both houses on July 10 will be held without him. But Takeshita told Yamanoi that the LDP will "consider" holding a session of a parliamentary committee with the prime minister in attendance, according to the opposition lawmaker.

The previous Diet session ended last month, but one-off committee deliberations can be held without convening a new session.

Abe is scheduled to attend a summit of the Group of 20 major economies in Germany starting July 7 and visit several Scandinavian countries and Estonia before returning to Japan on July 12.

Maekawa, who resigned from the top bureaucratic post over an unrelated case in January, has drawn attention for publicly vouching for the authenticity of ministry documents that indicated Abe's influence over the school construction project.

At their meeting on Tuesday, senior officials of the Democratic Party, Japanese Communist Party, Social Democratic Party and Liberal Party also decided to call for the prime minister to dismiss Defense Minister Tomomi Inada over remarks she made during a stump speech that they argue amounted to making political use of the Self-Defense Forces.

The LDP lost its status as the leading force in the Tokyo assembly amid voter frustration with the Abe administration, which is embroiled in various controversies. Meanwhile, popular Gov. Yuriko Koike's Tomin First no Kai (Tokyoites First party) and allies won an overall majority in the 127-seat assembly.

Just days before Sunday's assembly election, Inada asked voters to back an LDP candidate, saying the request came from "the Defense Ministry, the SDF, the defense minister and the LDP."

Under the law governing the country's defense apparatus, the SDF is supposed to remain politically neutral and its personnel are restricted in their ability to engage in political activities.

Also during the campaign period, former education minister Hakubun Shimomura, who is a close aide to Abe and was responsible for the party's election campaign in the capital, was also reported to have mishandled political donations from Kake Educational Institution, which he denied.



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