Japan protesters demand PM Abe resign over scandal

Protesters stage a demonstration near the prime minister's official residence in Tokyo on March 23, 2018.
Protesters stage a demonstration near the prime minister's official residence in Tokyo on March 23, 2018. PHOTO: AFP

TOKYO (AFP) - Hundreds of protesters, including opposition lawmakers, demonstrated in Tokyo on Friday (March 23) to demand Prime Minister Shinzo Abe resign over a favouritism and cover-up scandal that has battered his popularity.

Early Friday evening, around 700 people gathered in front of the prime minister's office in light rain - one of the largest anti-government demonstrations in recent weeks.

"Let's grill Abe and make him step down," Mizuho Fukushima, a senior lawmaker of the opposition Social Democratic Party, told the crowd.

Participants carried banners reading: "Abe politics is full of lies. We are sick and tired of it."

The premier has been on the ropes in recent weeks amid a scandal over the cut-price sale of government land to an Abe supporter.

The demonstration came as Nobuhisa Sagawa, formerly the head of the finance ministry department that oversaw the land deal, has been summoned to testify before parliament on Tuesday.

The finance ministry has acknowledged that documents related to the sale were altered, including by deleting the name of Mr Abe's wife, Akie.

Protesters also called on Mrs Akie Abe to be summoned to testify before parliament, though the prime minister has sought to fend off opposition calls for her to appear.

Mr Abe has repeatedly apologised, saying he "keenly felt" his responsibility over the scandal, but denied he and his wife were involved in the affair.

The premier has taken a hit in opinion polls, however, with his approval rating at its lowest level since his return to power at the end of 2012.