With voters poised to deliver their verdict Oct. 22 on the administration’s performance during the past five years, we again raise the question of whether Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has fulfilled his responsibility to address two scandals that have dogged him for months.

Besides weighty policy topics, such as national security legislation, Abe’s economic policy agenda known as "Abenomics" and the future of nuclear power generation in Japan, a key issue in the Lower House election is how Abe has fared with regard to his responsibility to explain scandals involving two educational institutions linked to him or his wife.

A series of revelations with regard to policy decisions concerning Moritomo Gakuen and the Kake Educational Institution have raised questions about the administration’s stance regarding the government’s decision-making process.

Did the government grant favorable treatment to people close to Abe or his wife, Akie? Does the government handle administrative matters in a fair and impartial manner?

Abe is often accused of calling the snap election as a ploy to brush the Moritomo and Kake scandals under the carpet. Whenever Abe is taken to task on this by political party leaders in debate or media interviews, Abe gives almost the same answer.

With regard to the scandal concerning the Kake Educational Institution’s plan to open a university faculty of veterinary medicine in a government-designated National Strategic Special Zone in Imabari, Ehime Prefecture, Abe says the most important question is whether he himself gave any instruction to approve the plan.

“None of the people who have testified at the Diet has said they received any instruction or request from me,” Abe says.

Abe is suggesting that nothing untoward occurred as long as there was not his personal directive on this issue.

But this line of argument doesn’t hold water. Even if he himself gave no instructions, that doesn’t rule out the possibility that close aides might have acted on his behalf or bureaucrats might have taken actions to accommodate the assumed wishes and intentions of influential individuals that had not been clearly expressed.

In fact, some documents have surfaced in the education ministry that refer to “the prime minister’s intent” or say “This is something passed on from the highest levels of the prime minister’s office.”

Abe also emphasizes the importance of remarks made in the Diet by former Ehime Governor Moriyuki Kato. Kato said the right way to summarize what happened is to say “distorted administration was corrected.”

When he made the comment, however, Kato was expressing his appreciation of the fact that the prefecture’s long-standing request for the establishment of a new veterinary medicine faculty was approved. He was not referring to the appropriateness of the process in which the institution to open the faculty was selected.

In addition, Kato had already retired as governor when the application for the special zone program was filed two years ago. In short, he was not in a position to know details about talks over the issue between government organizations involved or policy debate over the program.

With regard to the Moritomo scandal, Abe always points out that he had no personal acquaintanceship with Yasunori Kagoike, the former head of the private school operator who was a close friend of the first lady. He also notes that Kagoike has been prosecuted for fraud.

Then, Abe simply brushes aside the issue of his wife’s responsibility to explain her alleged role in relation to the Moritomo scandal, saying he has gone over the issue many times.

Abe has yet to offer any convincing answer to key questions concerning allegations against the first lady.

Why did she become honorary principal of the elementary school that Moritomo Gakuen planned to open, for instance?

Was she involved in any way in the questionable sale of state-owned land to Moritomo Gakuen at a price more than 800 million yen ($7 million) lower than the market evaluation? What is the truth about the 1-million-yen donation Akie is said to have given to Moritomo Gakuen?

Akie Abe needs to answer all questions in her own words to help clarify the facts.

Abe has yet to deliver on his promise to provide a “careful and detailed explanation” about these scandals to the public.

How the prime minister will fulfill his responsibility to explain about them is a central issue in this election.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Oct. 12