Japan’s top finance bureaucrat resigns

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Japan’s top finance bureaucrat resigned on Wednesday after a weekly magazine said he had sexually harassed several female reporters, the latest blow for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe whose ratings have been hit by a series of scandals.

Finance Minister Taro Aso told reporters that he had accepted Administrative vice Finance Minister Junichi Fukuda’s resignation.

It is the latest in a number of headaches for Aso and Abe. A steady trickle of allegations about suspected cronyism and cover-ups has raised doubts about how long Abe can stay in power.

Japan has had few reported “#MeToo” cases about sexual harassment involving public figures. In Japan, victims are often reluctant to speak out for fear of being blamed. The identity of the female reporters in Fukuda’s case has not been disclosed.

The Finance Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday that it would continue to investigate the allegations surrounding Fukuda through an external law firm, given that the initial internal fact-finding had been conducted by Fukuda’s subordinate.

It called on female reporters to come forward and contact the law firm if they were willing to cooperate with the investigation, drawing fire from several cabinet ministers including Seiko Noda, one of only two women in the cabinet.

While Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has made his “Womenomics” programmes to mobilise women in the workforce part of his policies to boost growth, big gender gaps persist at companies and in politics.

 

Zainab Sa’id

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