Opposition parties called Sunday for continued Diet scrutiny of claims that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe used his influence to approve a new department at a university run by a close friend.
The opposition called for further examination of the matter despite the ending of the ordinary parliamentary session Sunday, saying several points still require clarification. But a senior lawmaker of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party said it did not see a need to pursue the matter.
"The fairness of the administrative process is being questioned," Yoshihiko Noda, secretary general of the main opposition Democratic Party, said on a TV program, noting the project to open a new veterinary medicine department at Okayama University of Science concerned one of the specially deregulated zones overseen by the Cabinet Office.
The university is run by Kake Educational Institution, whose chairman, Kotaro Kake, is a close friend of Abe.
Documents found at the education ministry indicate that officials of the Cabinet Office conveyed the wishes of the prime minister's office in relation to the veterinary school project, employing phrases such as "what the highest level of the prime minister's office has said" and "in line with the prime minister's wishes."
But Kozo Yamamoto, minister in charge of the Cabinet Office, said Friday an internal investigation had found staff did not specifically mention the prime minister's wishes with regard to the project, contradicting the files found at the education ministry.
Akira Koike, head of the Secretariat of the opposition Japanese Communist Party, said on the same TV program that it was "absolutely necessary" that the Diet examine the matter in the presence of Abe.
Tetsuo Saito, acting secretary general of the LDP's coalition partner Komeito, cited a private-sector member of the prime minister's advisory panel on the specially deregulated zones as saying Abe had never made comments to sway the decision on the university construction project.
The LDP's Hakubun Shimomura, former education minister, said it was "natural" for the results of the investigations conducted by the Cabinet Office and the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology to differ.
"The stance of the (education) ministry is to protect its vested interests, while that of the Cabinet Office is to open up regulation," Shimomura said.
In January, the government picked the Kake institution to operate a new school of veterinary medicine scheduled to open in a special zone in Imabari, Ehime Prefecture, in April 2018. It would be the first new veterinary school approved in Japan in more than 50 years.© KYODO