Japan

Thousands rally against Abe gov’t amid cronyism scandals

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Thousands of people gathered in front of the Japanese parliament Sunday to protest against Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government, hit by cronyism accusations against the premier.

According to the organizer around 27,000 protesters gathered in rainy conditions, calling for continued scrutiny of allegations that Abe influenced government decisions to permit his friend to open a new veterinary school and to sell state-owned land at a heavily discounted price to a school operator linked to the prime minister's wife.

"Japan's parliamentary democracy has been destroyed," Satoshi Kamata, a well-known journalist told the participants. "We need to make efforts day by day to put an end to the Abe administration."

The rally also addressed a labor reform bill that was passed by the House of Representatives last month, which included an exemption from working-hour regulations for skilled professionals on high wages, triggering criticism from opposition parties.

Emiko Sado, the mother of a reporter of Japanese public broadcaster NHK who died in July 2013 at the age of 31 due to overwork, called for unity in urging the government to retract the exemption for professionals.

"For a mother, to see a child die due to 'karoshi' is a pain harsher than my own body being torn apart," she said. Karoshi is the Japanese term for death by overwork.

Among the protesters, housewife Toshiko Hirano, 59, from Tokorozawa in Saitama Prefecture, near Tokyo, said, "Prime Minister Abe is making a fool of us…I hope more young people will come to have an interest in politics."

A Kyodo News poll in mid-May showed the disapproval rating for Abe's cabinet stood at 50.3 percent, against a support rate of 38.9 percent.

© KYODO

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