TOKYO, June 18 (Reuters) - The arrest of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's former justice minister could be a devastating blow for the Japanese leader whose support is near record lows, raising the possibility of departure before the end of his term next year.
Reuters: Some in Abe's ruling Liberal Democratic Party are speaking of an early exit and rivals have stepped up manoeuvring to succeed him, party sources said. While Abe has rebounded from low ratings before, Japan's longest-ruling PM appears to be losing more internal support.
Reuters: Prosecutors on Thursday arrested former justice minister Katsuyuki Kawai, a one-time foreign policy adviser close to Abe, and Kawai's wife, Anri, on suspicion of vote-buying in a 2019 upper-house election.
Reuters: Tokyo prosecutors said in a statement that the couple paid 1.7 million yen ($15,904) to five people to get her elected. Separately, Katsuyuki Kawai gave a total of about 24 million yen to about 90 people.
Reuters: At the time, Anri Kawai's campaign received 150 million yen ($1.4 million) in funds from LDP headquarters. The size of the contribution, although not illegal, raised questions about whether Abe approved it.
Reuters: "Abe cannot last," said an LDP lawmaker who, like other politicians interviewed, spoke on condition of anonymity.
"He probably cannot last until the year-end."
Reuters: "Huge amounts of money circulated in the dark," Noriko Saito, a 65-year-old Tokyo housewife, said about the latest scandal.
"Mr Abe has a heavy responsibility."
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