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Japan’s Economy Minister Akira Amari has announced he is resigning amid corruption allegations.

Akira Amari unexpectedly made the announcement at a press conference in Tokyo on January 28.

He again denied personally receiving bribes from a construction company, as had been alleged by a Japanese magazine.

The development will be seen as a significant blow for PM Shinzo Abe.

Akira Amari, who has been minister of state for economic and fiscal policy since late 2012, has been widely described as one of Shinzo Abe’s most trusted members of parliament.

As Japan’s lead negotiator for the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, Akira Amari was expected to travel to New Zealand next week to sign the agreement.

Photo Reuters

Photo Reuters

He was also regarded as the architect of Abenomics – Shinzo Abe’s plan to pull the world’s third largest economy out of deflation.

Akira Amari will be replaced by Nobuteru Ishihara, formerly the country’s environment minister.

A local magazine had reported last week that Akira Amari and his aides were given money and gifts worth some 12 million yen ($101,000) by a construction company in return for some favors linked to land ownership.

Akira Amari said he did receive money which he wanted declared as a political donation, however, he said some of it was mishandled by his staff.

Japan’s economy, which has been struggling with deflation for nearly two decades, avoided a technical recession in Q3 of 2015.

“Japan is finally emerging from deflation,” Akira Amari told the press conference, as reported by Reuters.

“We need to pass legislation through parliament for steps to beat deflation and create a strong economy as soon as possible.

“Anything that hampers this must be eliminated, and I’m no exception,” Reuters reported him as saying.

“I, therefore, would like to resign as minister to take responsibility [for what my aide has done],” he said, according to Reuters.

Akira Amari is the fourth member of Shinzo Abe’s cabinet to resign amid allegations of bribery, among other issues.

Pm Shinzo Abe has apologized for the latest resignation.

PM Shinzo Abe’s ruling coalition has won a new two-thirds majority in Japan’s parliamentary elections seen as a referendum on his economic policy.

Japanese media reported that Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) retained its House of Representatives majority.

The LDP will govern with the Buddhist-backed Komeito party after the parties won 325 seats out of 475.

Shinzo Abe called the snap vote to secure support for his “Abenomics” economic reforms.

The LDP had won 290 seats, with Komeito taking 35, public broadcaster NHK said.Shinzo Abe wins snap elections 2014

The main opposition party, the Democratic Party of Japan, won 73 seats, an increase of 11, NHK said.

Shinzo Abe was elected in 2012 and has tried to revive the economy by raising public spending and printing money.

After an initial burst of growth, Japan slipped back into recession in the second half of this year, which many economists have blamed, at least in part, on an increase in sales tax, from 5% to 8% in April.

The tax increase was legislated by the previous government in 2012 to curb Japan’s huge public debt, which is the highest among developed nations.

Shinzo Abe says he called the election to get a mandate to delay a second increase in the tax to 10%, scheduled for 2015.

“My <<Abenomics>> policies are still only half-way done,” he said on Decemebr 14, adding that his government would not become “complacent”.

“I am aware that there are still a lot of people who are still not feeling the benefits. But it’s my duty to bring [benefits] to those very people, and I believe this election made that clear.”

Japan is the third-largest economy in the world, according to the World Bank, but it has struggled in recent years.

Voters were choosing who sits in the 475-seat lower house of Japan’s parliament, the Diet.

Reports said turnout at polling stations was low due to voter apathy and heavy snowfall in parts of the country. The government said turnout was at just 35%, two hours before polls closed.

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