Scandal-tainted Japanese minister Matsuoka commits suicide

MatsuokaFrom Mainichi Daily News in Japan:

Scandal-struck Farm Minister Toshikatsu Matsuoka commits suicide

Farm Minister Toshikatsu Matsuoka has been confirmed dead, hours after he was found hanging at his home and taken to hospital on Monday, according to police.

A secretary found Matsuoka, 62, hanging at about 12:18 p.m. at his Diet members’ residence in Tokyo’s Minato-ku.

He was taken to Keio University Hospital, where his death was confirmed at about 2 p.m.

Police suspect Matsuoka committed suicide after talking with a police officer assigned to guard him at about 10 a.m.

Opposition parties have criticized Matsuoka for claiming millions of yen in utility expenses for his office in the Diet members’ building, expenses which the government already covers.

More recently, it was revealed that Matsuoka’s office received a political donation from construction firms which received a contract for work tendered by the semi-governmental Japan Green Resources Agency (JGRA).

Prosecutors raided a Kumamoto Prefecture JGRA office in late May, suspecting that the bidding for the construction job was rigged.

In the wake of the scandals, many critics — including top LDP [government party] politician Kazuyoshi Kaneko — have been calling for Matsuoka’s resignation.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV:

The suicide by Matsuoka is two months before the elections of a new Senate.

The coalition of Prime Minister Abe risks losing its majority there.

See also here.

On the Japanese government site, Matsuoka’s official biography is here.

One wonders for how long it will stay there.

2 thoughts on “Scandal-tainted Japanese minister Matsuoka commits suicide

  1. Abe feels heat over minister’s suicide
    29/05/2007 06h46

    TOKYO (AFP) – Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe felt the heat Tuesday after the suicide of a scandal-tainted minister, with media saying he bore partial responsibility amid a sharp drop in his approval rating.

    Farm Minister Toshikatsu Matsuoka, a longtime Abe ally who was under fire over political donations and rigged contracts, hanged himself Monday, sending shockwaves through the political establishment.

    A grim-faced Abe and other ministers offered a one-minute prayer for Matsuoka at the beginning of a regular cabinet meeting with a white flower placed on Matsuoka’s empty chair.

    “It was extremely regrettable that his life was cut short with things only half done,” Abe, wearing a black tie, told his ministers, asking them to stick together and keep working for the national good.

    Lawmakers, ministers and business leaders paid their respects privately at a Tokyo funeral hall. His body was later driven past the parliament building on its way to the airport and his home in the southern province of Kumamoto.

    Matsuoka, a career bureaucrat turned politician, had helped Abe rise through the ranks but suffered a poor public image due to his close ties with powerful lobbies.

    He hanged himself in his residence hours before he was to be grilled in parliament over allegations of bid-rigging for public works.
    Katutoshi Matsuoka’s body is transported by medical staff in Tokyo
    ©AFP/Jiji Press

    In another suicide linked to the scandal, Shinichi Yamazaki, the former head of a public company handling forest work, apparently threw himself off his condominium on Tuesday.

    Yamazaki had headed a government-affiliated company in charge of contracts for forest work. Investigators were probing whether bids were rigged to give projects to donors to Matsuoka.

    Analysts said Matsuoka’s suicide would be a severe blow to Abe, who partly due to the scandal has suffered a sharp decline in public support ahead of key elections for the upper house of parliament on July 22.

    “Prime Minister Abe cannot help but take responsibility for the case,” said Tetsuro Kato, professor of politics at Hitotsubashi University in Tokyo.

    “His support rate is now sliding, and the suicide may accelerate the decline,” Kato said. “Abe is now at a crucial stage ahead of the upper house election.”

    A defeat in the conservative premier’s first national election could lead to calls for Abe’s resignation, although his party would remain in power due to a majority in the lower house.
    Japanese Agriculture Minister Toshikatsu Matsuoka
    ©AFP/File – Findlay Kember

    In the latest opinion poll released on Tuesday, support for Abe’s cabinet dropped to a new low of 36 percent, down eight points from the previous survey a week ago.

    The Asahi Shimbun carried out the survey of 1,031 eligible voters in the two days before Matsuoka’s suicide.

    Japanese dailies said Abe’s insistence on sticking by a scandal-tainted minister was partly responsible for his suicide, and would cost him a political price.

    “There is no doubt that this is the most serious crisis since the Abe administration began,” the Mainichi Shimbun said in an editorial.

    Late Monday, a sullen Abe admitted responsibility, telling reporters: “As the one who appointed minister Matsuoka to the post, I feel responsible for the action taken by a cabinet member.”

    The Nikkei business daily noted that Abe had strongly defended Matsuoka, “ignoring calls even by the ruling parties for his resignation.”

    “It will be strongly questioned if the prime minister’s actions were appropriate,” the Nikkei said in an editorial.

    The conservative Sankei Shimbun said in an editorial: “Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s responsibility is not small. It will be severely damaging to the administration ahead of the upper house election.”

    Japan has one of the world’s highest suicide rates, which experts attribute in part to the lack of a religious stigma against killing oneself.


  2. Pingback: Japan’s elections disastrous for ruling party | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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