Akita Gov. Kikuji Sasaki, who held office for nearly 18 years in Tohoku Prefecture, resigned Mar. 31 to take responsibility for the local government’s illegal spending on wining and dining.

Sasaki is the first governor in the nation to resign over a scandal involving such local government expenses. The campaign for a gubernatorial by-election following Sasaki’s exit is scheduled to start Apr. 3, and four people have announced their candidacies. Balloting will be held April 20.

The irregular handling of entertainment expenses was unveiled after a local citizens’ group began a probe into the prefecture’s coffers two years ago following Sasaki’s successful re-election bid. The probe found expenses claimed for fictitious business trips and meetings, illicit spending of national grants and forgery of the prefecture’s financial documents.

After the scandal came to light, many municipal assemblies in the prefecture adopted resolutions seeking Sasaki’s resignation, while each party in the prefectural assembly, except the Liberal Democratic Party, lso recommended he step down. Citizens’ groups also waged a campaign demanding Sasaki’s resignation.

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