Abe hits back at critics over land sale scandal

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Prime Minister Abe pointed out that the deleted parts that mentioned developments related to the deal, such as that Akie at one point was named honorary principal at an elementary school Moritomo Gakuen was planning to open and that she visited the planned site for the school in Toyonaka, Osaka Prefecture, had already been discussed in the Diet from late February to April previous year - when the documents in question were falsified.

The scandal stems from the 2016 sale of state land to school operator Moritomo Gakuen in Osaka at one-seventh of the appraised value with the alleged involvement of Akie Abe, who has said both she and her husband supported the school's ultra-nationalistic philosophy of education.

There appears to be no easy way out for Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe from the debacle he is now facing.

It later emerged that Moritomo Gakuen had paid about a sixth of the market price.

While the ongoing cronyism and document-tampering scandal has led to the approval rating for Abe's Cabinet tumbling to 38.7 percent over the weekend, Abe has maintained his innocence, despite public and opposition parties' calls for him to step down.

 Ministry after Akie Abe was quoted by Moritomo chief Yasunori Kagoike as saying, "Please go ahead with" the project in her talks with a ministry official in April 2014.

Mr Aso has blamed junior staffers for changing the documents, and promised to find out what happened.

However, in January, Finance Ministry officials released documents related to the negotiations. Ishiba was followed by Shinjiro Koizumi, a Lower House member and son of former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. "I'm not going to make comments every time (there is a poll)".

In an LDP presidential election, half the votes are cast by representatives of its regional chapters, who are more likely to be affected by the sentiments of the general public.

"The Abe government's attitude is entirely called into question", Fukuyama said.

After the scandal first came to light in February previous year, Akie quickly severed her affiliation with the school and its operator.

In fact, the latest media polls show that the support rates for the opposition are still dwindling while the rate for the LDP has only fallen slightly despite the latest developments in the Moritomo scandal.

On Monday, Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan lawmaker Tetsuro Fukuyama accused Abe of betraying parliament for almost a year.

If Abe is to be replaced, it will require an internal power struggle within the LDP, and the opposition camp will play no part, Matsumoto said.

The ruling coalition of the Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito found it inevitable to accept an opposition demand to summon Sagawa as a sworn witness, considering strong public criticism of the government over the scandal.

While leaders from other industrial nations in Europe and North America have seen relations with Russian Federation sour, Abe has maintained cordial ties with Putin as he seeks Russia's support in dealing with North Korea and the return of islands occupied by Russian Federation since the end of World War Two.