Abe's popularity falls as document-altering scandal continues

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Finance Minister Taro Aso during the Upper House Budget Committee session on March 19

The opposition cites Abe's assertion in the Diet in February 2017 that he would "resign as both prime minister and as a lawmaker if either my wife or I are found to have been involved in arranging or approving the sale".

The poll also showed Abe's support slipping by 9.4 percent to 38.7 percent in the two weeks since the last poll was conducted, while 48.2 percent said they did not support him.

Lawmakers are probing what appears to be an attempt to obscure political involvement in the 2016 sale of drastically underpriced public land to Moritomo Gakuen, which had connections to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his wife, Akie. The scandal has since snowballed with the release of information that Abe's wife, Akie Abe, was honorary principal of the planned school and allegations that she donated 1 million yen-about $8,800-to Moritomo Gakuen. The documents were changed before they were given to MPs that were investigating the alleged government influence in the original deal.

It resurfaced when it emerged that meanwhile over 300 changes in 14 documents concerning the background of the negotiations with the school were altered, according to the finance ministry. A finance ministry official committed suicide earlier this month, leaving a note saying that he feared being blamed for the scandal, public broadcaster NHK reported.

Referring to the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain, Abe told Putin that the use of chemical weapons was not acceptable.

"She is the wife of the prime minister, someone that ministry officials need to give more consideration to than the average Diet member", Koike said during the Upper House session.

A poll taken over the weekend shows that 68 percent of respondents believe that Abe "has a responsibility" in the document alterations.

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There have been nightly protests around Mr Abe's office over the past week demanding his resignation.

Opposing sworn testimony by Sagawa also risks backlash against the LDP and its leadership.

"The big question for voters is, 'What should we do after replacing Abe?' That's why the approval rate rebounded a year ago", he said.

But Jiro Yamaguchi, a politics professor at Hosei University in Tokyo, said the public was "not at all convinced" by this explanation.

If Sagawa's appearance fails to bear fruit, the opposition could strengthen calls for Akie Abe's sworn testimony, something the government has refused to authorize.

If any key players in the scandal, such as Nobuhisa Sagawa, former head of the ministry's Financial Bureau, which was in charge of the land deal, are summoned to the Diet for testimony, it will push down the Cabinet's approval rate further, Matsumoto said.

Japanese PM Shinzo Abe saw his support tumble as public anger continues to rise over cronyism.

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