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Nippon Mirai’s sole Diet member to replace Kada

by Reiji Yoshida

Staff Writer

Shiga Gov. Yukiko Kada officially declared Friday she will step down as head of the small political group Nippon Mirai no To (Tomorrow Party of Japan), apologizing to her constituents “for having caused worries” and pledging to “solely focus” on her gubernatorial duties.

Kada made the announcement while delivering a new year speech before Shiga prefectural employees. According to the text released, Kada said she has “taken seriously to heart” a recent resolution adopted by the prefectural assembly that urged her to quit as leader of Nippon Mirai, the splinter group she remained in charge of following the antinuclear party’s crushing defeat in the Dec. 16 general election and subsequent breakup.

“I stood up (to become the group’s head) for the sake of safety and the security (of people in and around) Shiga Prefecture and Lake Biwa, which have been exposed to high risks from nuclear power plants,” Kada said. “But as a result, I have caused worries to Shiga residents, which I apologize for.”

She added she will now solely focus on her duties as instructed by the assembly resolution.

Lower House lawmaker Tomoko Abe, a former Social Democratic Party member and the group’s sole Diet member, is expected to assume Kada’s post.

Nippon Mirai, which was centered on followers of political heavyweight Ichiro Ozawa, ended up with just nine of the 480 House of Representatives seats up for grabs in last month’s vote. Some 52 of the group’s Diet lawmakers lost their seats in the election.

When Ozawa and his followers bolted from Nippon Mirai, the group was disqualified as a national political party and became ineligible to receive annual government subsidies.

Ozawa’s group has since formed Seikatsu no To (Lifestyle Party), with 15 Diet lawmakers in its ranks — seven in the Lower House and eight in the upper chamber. Seikatsu no To reportedly plans to hold a party convention Jan. 26 in Tokyo, girding itself for the House of Councilors election this summer.

“The Upper House election will be a showdown,” Ozawa told supporters during his New Year’s Day party at his Tokyo residence, according to media reports.

Ozawa’s shindig used to attract more than 100 Diet members while he was calling the shots in the Democratic Party of Japan, in a display of his formidable political power, but only about a dozen lawmakers bothered to turn up this year, according to reports.