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Japan's Government Shaken By Pair Of Resignations

Two female ministers resigned from Japan's cabinet amid scandal Monday, and it's spelling trouble for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Posted at 6:33 PM, Oct 20, 2014

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe suffered a major setback this week after two of his top cabinet ministers stepped down simultaneously.

ABE VIA NHK: "As Prime Minister, I am responsible for appointing the two ministers. I apologize to the Japanese public for causing this situation."

Trade and Industry Minister Yuko Obuchi and Justice Minister Midori Matsushima both announced their resignations Monday after getting caught up in separate campaign finance scandals. The ministers were appointedonly a month ago during a cabinet reshuffle that was partially meant as a public show of support for working women.

Obuchi in particular was hailed as a rising star in Japanese politics — the daughter of former Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi, she inherited her father's support network and gained public sympathy after his sudden death in 2000. She was tapped to head the Abe government's nuclear power initiative. (Video via Al Jazeera)

But six weeks after being appointed minister, Obuchi was accused of misusing campaign funds to buy gifts for donors and constituents. Obuchi pleaded ignorance but accepted responsibility for the scandal late last week, and her resignation wasn't far behind.

Matsushima's scandal is a bit less clear-cut. The former Justice Minister is accused of breaking Japan's strict election laws by distributing 22,000 paper fans to her constituents during the 2012 elections. (Video via BBC)

A representative for the opposition party blasted Matsushima's fans as "an extremely malicious form of donation ... [to gain] publicity in an unfair manner," and a criminal complaint was filed against Matsushima last week. The former minister denied any wrongdoing in her resignation speech, but said she was stepping down to avoid impeding the government with a scandal.

The resignations come during a host of bad news for Abe; his government's popularity plummeted by almost 7 percentage points to 48 percent over the weekend, he's currently contemplating an unpopular 2 percent tax hike, and two of his remaining female ministers are also battling scandals over ties to right-wing extremists.

All in all, it's shaping up to be a rough month for Abe, whose unique brand of economic policies — dubbed "Abenomics" — has slowly been losing steam.

As one analyst told Time"Abe no longer seems the invincible Superman that some had imagined, and that weakens him both domestically and in Japan’s diplomatic dealings. ... I think there is a great wave of schadenfreude sweeping across East Asia as Abe's gathering woes weaken his political standing."

And The Japan Times notes these resignations could also trigger some unpleasant deja vu for Abe, whose first term as Prime Minister was plagued by similar cabinet scandals and resignations in 2006 and 2007.

Abe has already picked out successors for Obuchi and Matsushima. His party's acting chairman Yoichi Miyazawa will take over as the new trade minister, and former gender equality minister Yoko Kamikawa will be the new justice minister.

This video includes images from Getty Images.