Can Japan’s Abe Survive This Political Scandal? (EWJ)

From Tyler Durden: It’s not looking good for Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe: with his ratings plunging amid a suspected cronyism scandal and cover-up.

… and once again flirting with the level that has historically led to the resignation of his predecessors…

… Abe apologized on Sunday for causing anxiety and loss of confidence in his government.

It is unknown if again saying sorry will be enough this time: protesters urged Abe to resign, as riot police kept tight security outside the venue of his ruling party’s annual convention, at which the premier stressed his intention to revise Japan’s pacifist post-war, U.S.-drafted constitution according to Reuters.

Abe is facing the biggest political crisis since again taking office in December 2012 (his first stint as Japan’s PM was ended a decade ago by a case of pathological diarrhea) as the Moritomo scandal returned two weeks ago, raising suspicions swirl about a sale of state-owned land at a huge discount to a nationalist school operator with ties to his wife.

And, as the chart above show, “this problem has shaken the people’s confidence in the administration,” Abe admitted to the convention. “As head of the government, I keenly feel my responsibility and would like to deeply apologize to the people.”

Abe bows as he delivers an apology during the LDP annual party convention in Tokyo

And while he pledged a thorough clarification of the facts and the prevention of a recurrence by pulling the government together – in other words more lies to explain why he got caught lying about the previous lies – he offered no sign of stepping down.

As we reported previously, Abe has denied that he or his wife intervened in the sale or that he sought to alter documents related to the deal, while his close ally, Finance Minister Taro Aso, also denied involvement in the alterations made by ministry officials, despite the emergence of documents which showed the government had doctored reports “removing” the name of Abe and his wife, confirming a coverup had taken place.

Public opinion polls last weekend showed support for Abe’s cabinet sinking as low as 31% , with most respondents saying he bears some responsibility for the affair, and according to Reuters, the sliding support could crush Abe’s hope of winning a third three-year term as ruling Liberal Democratic Party leader in a party vote in September, victory in which would set him on track to become Japan’s longest ruling premier.

Meanwhile, outside the convention, protesters demanded that Abe either resign, or alternatively, go to prison.

“We’re protesting to defeat Abe’s government through our voices and the anger of the people,” said Fumiko Katsuragi, 69, who was among hundreds of protesters gathered in a Tokyo park where cherry blossoms were in full bloom. Some held banners that read “Go to jail Abe” and “No constitutional revision or war,” while right-wingers gathered nearby amid police security.

Also at the party convention, Reuters reports that the LDP adopted a proposal to revise the pacifist constitution in line with a plan floated by Abe last year to explicitly refer to the Self-Defense Forces, as Japan’s military is known.

“The time has finally come to tackle constitutional revision, which has been a task since the founding of the party,” Abe said.

“Let’s stipulate the Self-Defense Forces and put an end to a controversy about violation of the constitution.”

Abe proposed last May that the first two clauses of Article 9, which renounces the right to wage war and bans maintenance of a standing military, be unchanged but that a reference to the SDF be added to clarify its ambiguous status in what some have seen as a precursor to military intervention in North Korea.

Despite its literal ban on a standing army, successive governments have interpreted the charter to allow a military exclusively to defense. Abe wants to make that stance clear in the constitution itself, but says the change will not alter Japan’s security policies. At the same time, critics worry the revision would open the way to a bigger role for the military overseas.

Complicating matters, the ongoing Moritomo scandal which has crushed Abe support, coupled with an increasingly wary junior coalition partner, could make it virtually impossible for the LDP to push for the change, which would spark a divisive debate and potentially another government crisis.

Japan’s constitution has never been amended and any changes require approval by two-thirds of each house of parliament and a majority in a public referendum.

As for Abe refusing to resign, should global risks spike in the coming weeks, sending the USDJPY below 100, this will change fast and before you know it Abe will be begging to be caught on camera engaging in cold, premeditated bribery just so he can quit before the rug is pulled out from under the Japanese stock market and economy.

The iShares MSCI Japan ETF (EWJ) was unchanged in premarket trading Monday. Year-to-date, EWJ has declined -2.75%, versus a -3.30% rise in the benchmark S&P 500 index during the same period.

EWJ currently has an ETF Daily News SMART Grade of A (Strong Buy), and is ranked #1 of 76 ETFs in the Asia Pacific Equities Ex-China ETFs category.

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