• Japan's opposition grills ministers, lawmakers over missteps
  • Blunders threaten Abe's support levels before summer elections

For three years, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration has seemed immune to the scandals and gaffes that helped cut short his first term as premier in 2007 after less than a year. That may have changed with a recent spate of blunders.

Sadakazu Tanigaki.
Sadakazu Tanigaki.
Photographer: Kiyoshi Ota/Bloomberg

Abe on Thursday told ruling Liberal Democratic Party Secretary-General Sadakazu Tanigaki that the missteps were giving the opposition ammunition to attack the ruling party, NHK reported. "We must not be off guard or lose our footing," the public broadcaster cited Abe as saying.

Here’s a look at the slip-ups that have eaten into parliamentary budget debates in recent weeks, potentially hurting Abe’s poll numbers as he grapples with a struggling economy and market turmoil ahead of elections this summer.

Lawmaker refers to Obama as a ‘slave’

A lawmaker from Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party made headlines in Japan this week after referring to U.S. President Barack Obama as a "slave" in comments to a parliamentary committee.

QuickTake Abenomics

"When the country was being established, no one imagined that a black person, a slave, would become president of the U.S.," Kazuya Maruyama said. "It’s a country that changes dynamically." He also described the advantages of Japan becoming the 51st state of the U.S.

Maruyama apologized later the same day and said he would seek to have his comments expunged from the record, the Sankei newspaper reported. Asked about the remarks, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said politicians of all parties should take responsibility for their comments.

Paternity-leave lawmaker resigns over affair

Kensuke Miyazaki.
Kensuke Miyazaki.
Photographer: Akio Kon/ Bloomberg

A ruling party lawmaker, whose decision to take paternity leave to aid his wife was popular with the public, resigned from parliament last week after admitting to an extramarital affair while she was pregnant.

Kensuke Miyazaki, 35, married fellow LDP politician Megumi Kaneko last year in what was his second marriage. The scandal over his infidelity was published this month in a tabloid magazine days after she gave birth to their first child.

Economy minister quits over graft claims

Akira Amari
Akira Amari
Photographer: Matthew Lloyd/Bloomberg

Akira Amari, a close ally of Abe throughout his premiership and a key engineer of the government’s "Abenomics" program, last month resigned from the cabinet following allegations in a magazine that he and his staff had taken bribes from a construction company amounting to at least 12 million yen ($105,000). Amari acknowledged accepting money, but said it had been recorded as a political donation.

Amari also spearheaded Japan’s negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a U.S.-led regional trade pact seen as a symbol of the economic reforms promised by Abe that still needs to ratified by the legislature.

Environment minister withdraws radiation remarks

Tamayo Marukawa.
Tamayo Marukawa.
Photographer: Toshifumi Kitamura/AFP via Getty Images

Tamayo Marukawa came under fire for saying the government’s radiation decontamination target for the area around the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant had no grounding in scientific evidence. The government is seeking to reduce additional radiation near the plant to a level recommended by the International Commission on Radiological Protection.

Former television news anchor Marukawa, 45, apologized and withdrew the comments, but has rejected calls for her resignation.

Minister says ‘biased’ broadcasters can be shut down

Sanae Takaichi.
Sanae Takaichi.
Photographer: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg

Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Sanae Takaichi told a parliamentary committee this month that the government could order broadcasters to suspend operations if they ignore official warnings to ensure political neutrality.

Opposition Democratic Party lawmaker Soichiro Okuno said in a blog entry that such pressure would prevent freedom of reporting, and local media also criticized her comments. Government spokesman Suga defended Takaichi, saying her remarks were "a matter of course."



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