- Title: JAPAN: Prime Minister Abe under fire after Cabinet member's suicide
- Date: 29th May 2007
- Summary: (BN05) TOKYO, JAPAN (MAY 29, 2007) (REUTERS) EXTERIOR OF FUNERAL HOME FUNERAL ALTAR VARIOUS OF COFFIN CONTAINING BODY OF AGRICULTURE MINISTER TOSHIKATSU MATSUOKA BEING CARRIED INTO HEARSE MATSUOKA'S WIFE AND SON BOWING AND GETTING INTO HEARSE CLOSE UP OF MATSUOKA'S PHOTO HEARSE LEAVING WIDE OF PRIME MINISTER'S OFFICE JAPANESE PRIME MINISTER SHINZO ABE JOINING THE LINE OF PEOPLE, TO SEE OFF MATSUOKA'S BODY HEARSE ARRIVING MATSUOKA'S WIFE AND SON GETTING OUT OF HEARSE AND BOWING ABE AND OTHER GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS JOINING THEIR HANDS IN PRAYER HEARSE LEAVING
- Embargoed: 13th June 2007 13:00
- Location: Japan
- Country: Japan
- Topics: Domestic Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA78NPQELUC625LYGXEZYFES0L7
- Story Text: Family members, supporters and fellow politicians mourned Japan's Agriculture Minister Toshikatsu Matsuoka on Tuesday (May 29) a day after the minister committed suicide hours before he was to face questioning in Parliament.
The coffin containing the 62-year-old Cabinet member's body was carried into a hearse by his family during a wake in Tokyo before it was flown by airplane to his constituency in southern Japan.
Matsuoka had come under fire for a series of political funding scandals and questions about his suitability for the farm post had been raised as soon as he was appointed in September.
Observers say that the scandal-tainted minister's suicide - along with the Japanese government's ongoing pension mismanagement scandal - could threaten the chances that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's ruling camp can win a July upper house election.
Domestic media said Abe bore responsibility for appointing the scandal-tainted Matsuoka and keeping him in the post.
And ordinary voters agreed the affair was damaging.
"Prime Minister Abe's ability to lead and bring a team together could be called into question," said Masayoshi Moteki, 62, who runs a restaurant and said he supports Abe's Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).
A loss by the ruling coalition in the upper house election would not force Abe to resign, since the more powerful lower chamber elects the prime minister. But defeat would allow the opposition to block key legislation and a major loss would almost certainly spark calls from his own party for him to step down.
Many Japanese seemed to share the view the minister's decision to kill himself was very regrettable and that there would have been a less harsh solution to the scandal, such as resigning from his post.
"The minister should have taken the responsibility in other ways.... such as by resigning from his post," Motoki Nakahara, a 22-year-old college student.
Abe's popularity had sagged sharply even before the suicide, mostly because of voter outrage over the failure of the government to keep track of some 50 million pension premium payments, meaning retirees could be short-changed.
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