Abe Hints At Reviewing Cherry Blossom Party

Abe hints at reviewing cherry blossom party

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has indicated the possibility of downsizing an annual cherry blossom viewing party now under scrutiny. He expressed regret that the event grew so big, citing ambiguousness in selecting guests.

Opposition parties have been accusing Abe of using the publicly funded event to entertain supporters from his constituency.

Abe was speaking at an Upper House plenary session on Wednesday.

He said he has never been involved in the final guest-selection process by the Cabinet Secretariat and the Cabinet Office. He said a longtime tradition is for the Cabinet Secretariat to ask the prime minister's office and governing parties to recommend whom to invite.

He said his private office has also recommended guests.

He also said his office has widely sought those who wish to attend the event, including supporters from his constituency and those who have contributed to local society. He added that he has sometimes expressed his opinion on recommendations if asked by his office.

The prime minister also spoke about a dinner party sponsored by his support group on the night before the cherry blossom party.

Abe said his private office staff were involved in arranging the event by consulting with the hotel where the event was held.

He said the party fee was set at about 50 dollars per person after consulting with the hotel, and that participants paid the fee to the hotel.

He added that no money was received or spent by his support group. Abe also said he was told that his support group has never received a statement about costs from the hotel.

Abe stressed that he believes there is no need to mention this in his political funding reports because his support group neither received or paid anything for the event.

The political funds control law stipulates that political organizations must list costs and revenues in their funding reports if they sponsor paid events.