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Abe shaken by favours scandal

Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe has been dogged by allegations of special favours linked to the sale of government land.

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Shinzo and Akai Abe: dogged by controversy

"Forget secret meetings with foreign powers, illegal wiretapping or hotel break-ins, the scandal that dogs Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe involves an elementary school," says Shoko Oda in Bloomberg. Controversy over the cheap sale of government land to an education foundation linked to Abe's wife has been given a new lease of life by revelations that officials in Japan's treasury altered several documents, removing the names of "Abe, his wife and Finance MinisterTaro Aso". So far, "the furore has accounted for the head of Japan's tax agency". Now there are calls for Aso to resign too.

"Aso won't go so easily", warns Bloomberg's Shuli Ren. Any attempt to use the "highly ambitious" finance minister (and ex-PM) as a scapegoat could backfire. Aso has been loyal to Abe so far. But he is "positioning himself as a kingmaker in party elections this September". If he feels that "Abe is abandoning him to save his own skin," he could back a rival and bring Abe's bid to become Japan's longest-serving leader to an end.

Still, Abe may have no choice but to fire Aso, counters Leika Kihara on Reuters. "There are growing calls from within the LDP for Aso to fall on his sword". Yet removing his finance minister would not only reduce Abe's chances of staying as leader, but it would have a big impact on policy direction. For one, the Bank of Japan would "lose a backer in seeking a slow but steady exit from its huge monetary stimulus," says Motoko Rich in the New York Times. And Abe's long-term goal to change the pacifist clause in the country's Constitution, "is now probably compromised".

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