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Monday, July 12, 2004

Scandal-hit Tsujimoto loses Diet comeback bid


Staff writer

OSAKA -- Scandal-tainted Kiyomi Tsujimoto failed Sunday in her bid to return to the Diet, finishing fourth in the race for three seats in the Osaka electoral district.

"I began this campaign with an apology to the voters for the scandal involving my secretaries' salary, and I end it with an apology to voters," she told her supporters, who began gathering at her Osaka office early in the evening to await the results of what they knew was a close race.

When Motoyuki Odachi of the Democratic Party of Japan, who late last week was predicted by several local media polls to finish fourth, won the first seat at just after 9 p.m., a collective groan went up from the roughly two dozen Tsujimoto supporters.

Her loss had not been unexpected. Although polls early in the campaign showed undecided voters might express their anger at the ruling coalition over the pension scandal and the Self-Defense Forces troop dispatch to in Iraq by voting for Tsujimoto, by election day she had slipped in popularity.

When Shinzo Abe, secretary general of the Liberal Democratic Party, visited Osaka just before the election in support of Issei Kitagawa, he used the opportunity to attack Tsujimoto.

In the end, Tsujimoto's recent fraud conviction, her status as an independent candidate and her inability to expand beyond her traditional support base of nongovernmental and nonprofit organizations led to her defeat.

Tsujimoto's campaign had been criticized from the very beginning. She was well aware of the criticism, and spent much time apologizing for the fraud scandal. But an initial campaign that featured the word "sorry" plastered on the front of her campaign truck backfired, as many Osaka people felt she needed to explain in more detail about both the scandal and what she would do if elected.

Despite her defeat, however, she refused to rule out running again in the future.

"I accept the harsh results of this election and will discuss with my supporters how to proceed, and how to best carry out my goals," she said.



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