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Wednesday, March 12, 2003

Resolution asks Sakai to resign

Two coalition parties in rare agreement with opposition

Staff writer

Four opposition parties on Tuesday demanded the resignation of Lower House member Takanori Sakai, who was arrested last week for alleged Political Funds Control Law violations.

The demand came in a nonbinding resolution submitted to House of Representatives Speaker Tamisuke Watanuki by the Democratic Party of Japan, the Liberal Party, the Japanese Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party.

The four parties hope to have the chamber vote on the resolution Thursday.

"Despite the fact that (his actions) further escalated the public's distrust of politics, (Sakai) has shown no sincerity in trying to clarify the allegations," the resolution says. "And on top of this, his personally trying to cover up the facts is a terribly regrettable attitude to take, considering his heavy responsibilities as a Diet member."

In a rare move, New Komeito and the New Conservative Party -- junior partners in the Liberal Democratic Party-led coalition -- have indicated they will support the resolution, apparently fearing voter anger over a string of money-related political scandals.

The LDP has yet to determine its position, but some senior party officials indicated they have no choice but to support it in order to avoid a voter backlash in nationwide local-level elections slated for next month.

Even if the resolution is approved by the Lower House, it is not clear whether Sakai will step down.

Lower House member Muneo Suzuki, who was arrested and charged with bribery last year, still remains a Diet member despite the passage of a similar resolution.

Sakai was expelled from the LDP upon his arrest; Suzuki quit the party before his.

Sakai, who was elected from the Saga No. 1 constituency, allegedly instructed some of his aides not to report 120 million yen in corporate donations between 1997 and 2001.

The lawmaker is also suspected of ordering his secretaries to destroy evidence, which prompted prosecutors to arrest him last week after asking the Lower House to strip him of his immunity from arrest while the Diet is in session.

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The Japan Times

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