Photo/Illutration Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Dec. 4 (Koichi Ueda)

Seventy percent of voters say former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe should explain at an open hearing in the Diet the scandal over luxury banquets held for his supporters, an Asahi Shimbun survey showed.

Twenty-three percent of respondents in the Dec. 19-20 telephone survey said Abe does not need to explain the matter in an open hearing.

A support group headed by Abe’s senior state-paid aide covered part of the costs for the hotel banquets that were held on the eve of annual cherry blossom viewing events hosted by Abe in the capital. The payments were not reported, and Tokyo prosecutors are investigating the matter as a possible violation of the Political Fund Control Law.

Opposition party lawmakers have demanded that Abe give unsworn testimony at open meetings of the Budget Committee in the Diet to clarify where the money came from and why he had previously denied that such payments were made for the dinner parties.

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party is currently discussing a plan to ask Abe to explain the matter at a steering committee meeting of both the Lower House and Upper House by the end of the year. However, such a meeting would be held behind closed doors.

Sixty-eight percent of male respondents and 71 percent of female respondents want Abe to explain the scandal in an open hearing, according to the survey.

Among respondents in their 30s, 58 percent said the hearing should be open to the public. The ratio topped 60 percent among all other age groups.

The desire for an open hearing was expressed by 59 percent of those who approve of the Yoshihide Suga Cabinet, as well as 60 percent of supporters of the LDP.

Among those who disapprove of the Cabinet, 86 percent want Abe’s explanation made in an open hearing, while 74 percent of unaffiliated voters expressed the same sentiment.

Home phone or mobile numbers selected at random by a computer were called for the survey. It received 1,521 valid responses, from 53 percent of landline and 45 percent of mobile phone numbers called.