Tokyo, Japan – Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Friday corrected statements he had made in parliament. He apologized for what he said were mistakes regarding a political funding scandal. That has also cast a pall over the present premier.
Abe said he felt deeply accountable for making repeated false denials that his political funding group had subsidized cherry blossom viewing parties for his supporters. This is in possible violation of the country’s strict political funding laws.
Japan’s longest-serving leader said he had known nothing about the payments and pledged to work to regain public trust. The apology came after his secretary was on Thursday summarily indicted over the issue. Also, he was fined 1 million yen ($9,650) for that.
“Even though the accounting procedures happened without my knowledge, I feel morally accountable for what happened,” Abe told a parliamentary committee. “I reflect on this deeply and apologize from my heart to the citizens and to any or all lawmakers.”
Abe also filed corrected political funding reports for the last three years.
The public apology marks a sharp reversal of fortune for Abe, who is a political blue-blood whose grandfather and great-uncle also served as premiers. He quit as prime minister on health grounds in September after serving nearly eight years as prime minister.
The scandal threatens to wreck his successor, Yoshihide Suga, who was Abe’s right-hand man throughout his term and has defended his former boss in parliament.
Suga, who has been beset by other controversies and seen his support ratings slide. However, a year before calling the subsequent lower house election, he has apologized for creating inaccurate statements.
Abe didn’t reply to questions from opposition MPs about whether he would take political responsibility for the scandal by resigning as an MP. He struggled to clarify why he was ready to file detailed updated funding reports. Although, he says his office doesn’t have the underlying receipts for the parties.
Abe’s statements to parliament from the end of 2019 contradicted the findings of the prosecutors a minimum of 118 times, several domestic media reported, citing a parliamentary research bureau.
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