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Anti-nuclear ex-leader seeks Koizumi's backing

Hosokawa gears up for Tokyo race

Kyodo, Staff Report

Former Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa is considering running in the Feb. 9 Tokyo gubernatorial election, sources said Thursday.

Hosokawa plans to propose ending Japan’s dependence on nuclear power generation and is looking to see if he can gain support from Junichiro Koizumi, another former prime minister known for his anti-nuclear stance.

Hosokawa, 75, is expected to run as an independent.

The Liberal Democratic Party and its ruling coalition partner, New Komeito, have moved toward backing 65-year-old former health minister Yoichi Masuzoe, but the party might see its loyalties split if Koizumi decides to extend support to Hosokawa.

Hosokawa joining the race would likely change the balance of power, since he could also gain backing from the opposition, including the Democratic Party of Japan and People’s Life Party, which are united in phasing out nuclear power entirely.

Also within Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party), former members of Hosokawa’s Japan New Party have said they intend to personally support his campaign.

Hosokawa, who was prime minister between August 1993 and April 1994, has stayed away from politics since resigning from the House of Representatives in May 1998. He made his feelings against atomic power clear after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami triggered the Fukushima nuclear crisis.

In the meantime, the LDP members in the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly decided the same day to back Masuzoe as their candidate after he met with them to explain his polices, including a focus on staging the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.

Masuzoe told reporters in the morning that he was asked by LDP Secretary-General Shigeru Ishiba on Wednesday to meet assembly members curious about an article he wrote for Gendai Business, an online magazine. Masuzoe’s article said Japan should take advantage of the 2020 Games to achieve economic growth.

Masuzoe stopped short of declaring his candidacy, however, and said he was still in the process of “making necessary procedures and preparations to win the election” if he formally decides to run.

When asked to respond to rumors that Hosokawa might run, Masuzoe said he had nothing to say, since Japan is a democratic country where any qualified individual is free to run for office.

“Although I haven’t declared my candidacy yet, once the election campaign starts, I will put all of my efforts into attracting support for my policies,” he said.

Lower House member Koichi Hagiuda, acting secretary-general of the LDP’s Tokyo chapter, said the meeting showed a certain agreement on policies that convinced them to back his candidacy.

“Masuzoe received an applause after expressing his ideas and determination to run in the election,” he said.

Executives of the LDP’s Tokyo chapter will hold an emergency meeting Friday to make a final decision on Masuzoe and report it to LDP headquarters, Hagiuda said.

Hagiuda also revealed that Masuzoe apologized for his expulsion from the party in 2010, which led him to launch Shinto Kaiku (New Renaissance Party).

While admitting there would be an impact if Hosokawa decided to enter the race with Koizumi at his side, Hagiuda said the LDP’s Tokyo chapter won’t hesitate to back Masuzoe.

The current candidates for the Tokyo gubernatorial race include Kenji Utsunomiya, former head of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations, and former Air Self-Defense Force chief Toshio Tamogami.