More than 50,0000 protesters gathered at a rally in Tokyo Saturday, angered about scandals surrounding Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Protesters young and old carried signs calling Abe a “liar” and seeking his resignation over allegations of the prime minister’s involvement in two land deal controversies.
Abe has denied involvement in the controversies, one of which is related to an under-the-table land sale involving Abe’s wife, Akie Abe. Documents related to the controversy may have been manipulated before they were presented to Tokyo’s parliament, according to a Japanese press report.
The deal involved a land sale to Moritomo Gakuen, a school foundation with links to Akie Abe. The land, in Toyonaka, Osaka Prefecture, was sold in June 2016 for less than $1.3 million, but has a market value of more than $7 million.
“The large number of people gathering is due to growing anger,” said Takeshi Suwahara, one of the protest leaders. “A strong sense of crisis is spreading — people now sincerely feel they have to speak out for what is right.”
Saturday’s protests followed the revelation on Friday that a document related to one of the scandals implicating Abe had been found at a government ministry.
Minister Ken Saito, minister of agriculture, forestry and fisheries, said a document kept at the farm ministry allegedly showed that Abe’s aide at the time informed local officials the prime minister was involved in opening a veterinary school.
Tadao Yanase, the aide, denied making the comments and has said he does not remember such a meeting with the local officials.
Critics say Abe, who is close to the school’s operator, used his influence in getting government approval of the newly-opened school at the Okayama University of Science.
The scandals have pushed Abe’s approval ratings to all-time lows and have raised questions about his ability to win election in September.
Abe is scheduled to meet with President Donald Trump soon to focus on challenges of North Korea’s nuclear arms program. The summit will be April 17-18 at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Fla.
By Susan McFarland