Three opposition parties agreed Sept. 18 to introduce a no-confidence resolution in the Diet against convicted bribe-taker Koko Sato, the chief of the Management and Coordination Agency.
The agreement effectively leaves Sato with no option but to voluntarily give up his Cabinet post, possibly by the end of the week. Even his political allies in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party faction to which he belongs called Sept. 18 for his voluntary resignation. Until Sept. 16, the besieged Sato had claimed innocence in connection with the 1970s Lockheed bribery scandal, Japan’s largest political corruption scandal in postwar years.
Executives from the three opposition parties — Shinshinto, the Democratic Party of Japan and Taiyo Party — agreed to introduce a no-confidence resolution against Sato to an extraordinary Diet session scheduled to be held late this month. Sato was appointed to the post by Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto, despite his bribery conviction, at the urging of former Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone, who effectively controls the 66-member faction. “We also agreed to continue questioning the responsibility of the Hashimoto Cabinet for causing this problem even after Sato resigns,” Takeo Nishioka, secretary general of Shinshinto, the largest opposition party, told a news briefing after the meeting.
The meeting of secretary generals and Diet affairs chairmen from Shinshinto, DPJ and Taiyo Party was held after a meeting of the Diet affairs committee chairmen from the three parties. Shinshinto initially adopted the stance of introducing a no-confidence resolution against Hashimoto’s Cabinet as a whole, rather than against Sato himself, so as not to offend Nakasone, who has been a leading supporter of a conservative alliance with some Shinshinto members, including the party head, Ichiro Ozawa.
The agreement by the three opposition parties to question Sato is considered to indicate that Shinshinto has put priority on uniting the three parties to prepare for the coming Diet session. Shinshinto’s Nishioka denied any change in the party’s stance, saying the party decided to send a no-confidence resolution against the Hashimoto Cabinet simply because it will probably be voted down, because the LDP has regained a simple majority in the House of Representatives.
When introducing the resolution, they also agreed to ask for cooperation from other parties, including the Japanese Communist Party, which has denounced Sato’s appointment, and possibly the Social Democratic Party, a non-Cabinet ally of the LDP that is also demanding Sato’s resignation. A group of 16 House of Councilors members from the LDP also agreed Sept. 18 morning that Sato should step down. The LDP members, who are Sato’s colleagues in the faction, asked Nakasone to advise Sato to resign as the head of the agency. Sato is very close to Nakasone.
Masakuni Murakami, leader of the LDP Upper House members, said the members agreed that Sato should step down at once. The agreement came after two smaller non-Cabinet allies of the LDP — the SDP and New Party Sakigake — formally demanded Sept. 17 to the LDP that Sato be removed from the Cabinet.
Sato was convicted in 1986 of taking 2 million yen in bribes from All Nippon Airways in the 1970s Lockheed payoff affair. His three-year suspended sentence expired in 1989, posing no legal problem in appointing him to a government post.
It is the first ministerial post for the 69-year-old Sato. He had repeatedly denounced the prosecution and the courts for the ruling until Sept. 16, when he told a news conference that he now accepts the guilty ruling.