TOKYO (AP) — Japan’s justice minister resigned Thursday over election fraud allegations involving his wife, also a lawmaker, and about his own reported gift-giving allegations, becoming the second Cabinet minister to step down in a week.
Katsuyuki Kawai’s resignation after the trade minister resigned last Friday are an embarrassment to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government, which has been also plagued with a series of gaffes that have incited public anger.
Abe told reporters he accepted the resignation submitted by Kawai, who said he did not want to cause trouble to the government’s justice policy because of his scandal.
“I decided to respect his decision … I was the one who appointed Mr. Kawai and I deeply feel my responsibility for causing this result,” Abe said. “I offer my deep apologies to the people.”
Kawai denied he or his wife did anything wrong.
“I believe both my wife and I carried out election campaign by abiding by law,” Kawai said. “I will thoroughly investigate the case and fulfil my accountability.”
Isshu Sugawara resigned as trade minister over allegations that he and his aides offered money and gifts to his supporters in violation to election law. He also denied wrongdoing while saying he resigned to not cause trouble.
Both ministers were appointed when the Cabinet was reshuffled in September after Abe’s ruling coalition won a comfortable majority in the July elections in the upper house, the less powerful of Japan’s two chambers.
Abe took office in December 2012 and is set to be the longest serving prime minister in Japanese postwar history next month. He has managed to shake off various scandals, partly because of an opposition that is divided and unpopular.
The Weekly Bunshun tabloid magazine reported that Kawai’s wife, Anri, is alleged to have paid her staff allowances exceeding legal limits, in what the magazine called “election staff bribery.”
Kawai himself sent gifts such as potatoes, corn and other gifts to his supporters, the article said, alleging him of vote buying.
The article said Anri Kawai paid female campaign “announcement” staff twice as much as the legal limit of 150,000 yen ($138) per day for the July elections in her home district in Hiroshima, where she won a seat.
Follow Mari Yamaguchi on Twitter at https://www.twitter.com/mariyamaguchi