Though one might have assumed that the legacy of former Prime Minister Abe Shinzo would go gently into that good night upon his resignation back in September this year, the third-generation politician finds himself being dragged back in public discourse.
While he officially resigned for health reasons, Abe was no stranger to allegedly criminal controversies during his time in office–most notably, the Moritomo Gakuen scandal, and the Cherry Blossom scandal. The latter event was dredged back up around a week ago when the Tokyo Public Prosecutor’s Office claimed that the Abe administration severely underpaid for their 2019 cherry blossom party at Shinjuku Gyoen National Park.
Their potential underpayment is an issue because the financial discrepancy implies an attempt to evade taxes and could be in violation of the Political Funds Control Act. In this case, the Abe administration allegedly only charged each party guest a 5,000 yen admission charge, when the party itself had luxury accommodations. Because of these recent revelations, the public has begun to suspect that Abe didn’t step down for his health, but rather to evade prosecution.
“Arrest Abe Shinzo Now”
The Twitter hashtag 安倍晋三の逮捕を求めます (Abe Shinzo no taiho wo motomemasu), or “#ArrestShinzoAbeNow”, succinctly sums up these public concerns. A few people on Japanese Twitter have expressed their disbelief and even disgust with this news coming to light. Note that these are just a few selected opinions, and are non-exhaustive:
Call Abe to the stand! There’s no way he didn’t know about how the money was being spent on the cherry blossom viewing party, especially the night before! He should have gotten a full report from his policy secretary Hatsumura, after that “5,000 yen” conversation. The Diet has been told too many lies to count. Arrest Abe!-Saito Sho, journalist
The cherry blossom viewing party is only the tip of the iceberg. It’s time for all the preferential treatment in politics to come to light. We have to drain the swamp borne from seven years and eight months of the Abe administration.-Ito Daiki, member of the Japan Communist Party and Chairman of the Sumida Area Committee
[Original] Case Being Built Against Former Prime Minister Abe’s Policy Secretary by the Tokyo Public Prosecutor’s Office… Are you going to take responsibility for your secretary potentially violating the Political Funds Control Act? All we’ve had to go on for the past year is falsehoods from a lame duck prime minister. The Moritomo Gakuen signatures are suspicious as well…How long will this go on for?-“Mitsu”, Japanese netizen
With all these allegations coming to light, plus Prime Minister Suga recently thrust into the hot seat about how much he exactly knew about the party, we’ll have to wait for more information before the public can come to a conclusion. Until then, we’ll have to reckon with the possibility that Abe will remain under public scrutiny well after his retirement.