Monday, May 28, 2007

Japanese Minister Commits Suicide

He apparently was overwhelmed by a series of scandals.
A scandal-tainted minister in Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's cabinet committed suicide on Monday, compounding problems for the Japanese leader whose support has slumped ahead of a July election.

It was the first suicide by a Japanese cabinet minister since the days after Japan's defeat in World War Two, according to officials at the national library.

"This will have serious political fallout, but at this point it's hard to tell how much," a government official told Reuters.

Agriculture Minister Toshikatsu Matsuoka's suicide came as Abe's public support rate fell to its lowest level since he took office last September, due largely to voter anger over mismanagement of pension premiums that could shortchange retirees.

The dent in Abe's popularity had already increased chances that his ruling camp would lose its majority in the election for parliament's upper house, his first big test at the polls.

Matsuoka, 62, under fire for a series of political funding scandals, died in hospital after he was found unconscious in his room at a Tokyo residential complex for lawmakers.

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