Pattaya Daily News

28 May 2007 :: 18:05:05 pm 30807

Japanese Agricultural Minister Commits Suicide

28 May- A scandal-tainted minister in Prime Minister Shinzo Abe‘s cabinet committed suicide today, compounding problems for the Japanese leader whose support has already slumped ahead of a July election.
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It was the first suicide by a Japanese cabinet minister since the days immediately after Japan’s defeat in World War II, according to officials at the national library.

Toshikatsu Matsuoka, 62, was found in his apartment today unconscious and rushed to a hospital, where he was declared dead hours later.

Matsuoka had faced heavy criticism over a scandal involving suspicious book-keeping practices in his offices, and was scheduled to appear before a parliamentary committee this afternoon for further questioning.

Government officials confirmed Matsuoka was hospitalised today, but chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuhisa Shiozaki refused to confirm widespread reports that the minister hanged himself from a door in his apartment.

Agriculture Minister Toshikatsu Matsuoka’s suicide came as Abe’s public support rate fell to its lowest level since he took office last September, due largely to voter anger over a mix-up regarding pension payments.

The dent in Abe’s popularity had already increased chances that his ruling camp would lose its majority in the election for Parliament’s upper house, his first big test at the polls.

Matsuoka had been linked by local media to at least two political fund scandals including one involving massive dubious spending on his office near Parliament.

Last week, media also reported that he had received political donations from businessmen involved in a bid-rigging scandal.

Matsuoka had repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

Critics had charged that Abe was protecting Matsuoka, and the Prime Minister’s image would likely suffer in the short term, political analysts said.

But they added that the long-term fallout could depend on how Abe handled the matter.

“It’s hard to say what will happen. It depends on Abe’s response,” said Jun Iio, a political science professor at the National Graduate Institute for Political Studies.

“This could make it hard for the opposition to follow up on the scandals, but it could also give the impression that there was something so bad that he had to commit suicide.”

Reporter : PDN staff   Photo : Internet   Category : World News

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