Takashi Fukaya, chairman of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s decision-making Executive Council, formally declared Monday he will not run in a House of Representatives by-election in Tokyo slated for April 11.

Fukaya, who gained the seat under the proportional representation system in the 1996 Lower House election, announced his decision after meeting with Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi at LDP headquarters. Obuchi serves as LDP president.

Fukaya had been considering a run for the Lower House seat vacated by Kunio Hatoyama, the former deputy head of the Democratic Party of Japan who was elected from Tokyo’s No. 2 single-seat constituency and beat Fukaya in the 1996 general election. Despite the defeat, Fukaya secured his current Lower House seat through a recently revised electoral system that permits candidates to run simultaneously for both single-seat and proportional representation constituencies.

Hatoyama gave up his seat to run in next month’s Tokyo gubernatorial election.

There was criticism that Fukaya’s unusual move — giving up a Lower House seat to run for the same chamber again — would not be understood by the the public.

Fukaya had said he would run in the by-election to prove his political mettle by taking back a seat the LDP lost to the DPJ. However, the move is widely believed an attempt by Fukaya to elevate his status in Nagata-cho, the nation’s political center. Lawmakers elected from single-seat constituencies are considered “first-class” politicians, unlike those elected by proportional representation.

In the meeting, Obuchi sought to secure Fukaya’s cooperation for his administration as the LDP’s Executive Council chairman, one of the party’s three top posts. “Listening to Obuchi’s persuasion, I thought that what I should do as an LDP member is to decide not to enter the by-election,” Fukaya said in a statement.

During the past week, LDP executive members have repeatedly tried to dissuade Fukaya from running. Fukaya, however, was intent on making the decision himself. Speaking with reporters last Friday, he said he had not yet made up his mind on whether to pull out.

LDP Secretary General Yoshiro Mori and Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiromu Nonaka last week urged Fukaya not to enter the race, saying his possible defeat would cause severe damage to the government, given his position in the party.

LDP executives may have also been worried about possible intraparty competition for the Executive Council chairman post.

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