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Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2010

DPJ scandals cost us Nagasaki: Hatoyama

Staff writer

Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama acknowledged that his party's political money scandals affected Sunday's gubernatorial race in Nagasaki Prefecture, where the ruling Democratic Party of Japan-backed candidate lost.

"It should be said that scandals on 'politics and money' influenced the outcome," Hatoyama told reporters Monday. The result "will be taken with sincerity," he said.

Former Nagasaki Vice Gov. Hodo Nakamura, supported by the opposition Liberal Democratic Party and the New Komeito, defeated DPJ-backed former bureaucrat Tsuyoshi Hashimoto and five others.

Nagasaki has been a stronghold for the DPJ in recent national polls, including last year's general election where newcomer Eriko Fukuda beat out LDP veteran Fumio Kyuma. But Nakamura, 59, crushed Hashimoto 316,603 to 222,565.

The result is a "huge blow" to the DPJ heading into the Upper House election in July, political analyst Minoru Morita said.

The outcome is widely seen as the public's response to the DPJ's money scandals, including Hatoyama's mismanagement of political funds given to him by his mother as well as a shady land buy by DPJ Secretary General Ichiro Ozawa.

"The winning streak for the DPJ is over, the favorable wind has stopped," Morita said, pointing out that Nakamura's wide margin of victory came despite the DPJ's recent winning streak in Nagasaki.

Morita said the public is clearly displeased with how Hatoyama and his administration are trying to handle the scandals, warning that regaining voter trust in time for July's Upper House election will be a tough task.

Meanwhile, the opposition camp began feasting on the long-awaited change of tide, with LDP lawmakers boycotting the Lower House Budget Committee session. The party decided earlier in the day to shun discussing the fiscal 2010 budget until the DPJ appropriately addresses the money scandals, including setting a special session for Hatoyama's mother and Ozawa to give sworn testimony.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirofumi Hirano criticized the move, saying the outcome of Nagasaki's gubernatorial election in no way justifies impeding Diet proceedings.

"These are completely different issues," Hirano said, adding that passing the budget plan will be a priority for the administration.

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The Japan Times

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