Scandal-Plagued Japanese Minister Dead
Matsuoka's suicide is another blow to Abe government
By M. Morris,  Newser Staff
Posted May 28, 2007 8:48 AM CDT
The coffin of Japan's Agriculture Minister Toshikatsu Matsuoka is brought to a funeral hall for his wake in Tokyo, Monday, May 28, 2007. Matsuoka, 62, died Monday after hanging himself just hours before...   (Associated Press)
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(Newser) – Facing questioning in an investigation of political contributions, the Japanese agriculture minister hanged himself at his Tokyo home today. Toshikatsu Matsuoka had refused calls to resign or explain reports of financial improprieties, but embattled PM Shinzo Abe had stood by him. Abe faces a serious challenge to his Liberal Democratic Party's majority in July parliamentary elections.

Abe "has a very hard election to win anyway," one expert told Bloomberg. "This isn't an easy thing to deal with and may cause a sense of panic among the LDP." The government would not confirm the suicide, the first by a postwar cabinet member, but local news outlets reported that Matsuoka left a note.