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Thursday, April 17, 2003

Opposition united in call for Matsunami to resign


Staff writer

Four opposition parties agreed Wednesday to call on Kenshiro Matsunami to resign from the House of Representatives to take responsibility for having a gangster's construction company pay two of his secretaries' salaries.

News photo
Opposition Diet affairs officials hold talks over a scandal involving Lower House member Kenshiro Matsunami.

The Diet affairs chiefs of the Democratic Party of Japan, the Liberal Party, Japanese Communist Party and Social Democratic Party also agreed that if Matsunami refused to step down by the end of the day, they would seek a Diet resolution urging him to do so or demand that the Lower House Budget Committee summon him as an unsworn witness.

Either of those moves would deal another major blow to the ruling coalition, which has been plagued by scandals in recent months.

Matsunami, a former amateur wrestling champion and professor of sports anthropology at Senshu University, is a member of the New Conservative Party, a junior partner in the ruling triumvirate.

Earlier in the day, the secretaries general of the three ruling parties -- the Liberal Democratic Party, New Komeito and the New Conservative Party -- accepted Matsunami's apology and endorsed his decision to seek public understanding for his actions without resigning, participants said.

The officials said they determined that no criminal act had occurred.

This latest scandal, however, is expected to provide the opposition with more ammunition as the ruling camp has already been bruised by several financial scandals involving politicians, particularly in connection with construction companies and public works projects.

The NCP also informed the Lower House secretariat that it would replace Matsunami with Yoichiro Ezaki on the Lower House Steering Committee on the grounds that media coverage of the disgraced lawmaker would adversely affect Diet proceedings.

The gangster in question served as chairman of the Osaka-based construction company; he was arrested in March 1998 for allegedly rigging a bid to dismantle public housing in Osaka.

On Tuesday, Matsunami admitted that he allowed the construction firm to pay the 2.75 million yen salaries of his private secretaries between March 1997 and February 1998, but said he stopped accepting the money after learning that the man had ties to organized crime.

He also admitted calling police and inquiring about the bid-rigging case at the gangster's request, but claimed he did not know at the time that the man was on a nationwide wanted list in connection with the allegations.



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