One-time Chief Cabinet Secretary Takao Fujinami left the ruling Liberal Democratic Party on Friday but refused to say whether he would resign as a member of the Lower House, now that his bribery conviction in the decade-old Recruit scandal has been upheld by the Supreme Court.

Fujinami tendered his resignation to LDP Secretary General Yoshiro Mori, and with the opposition camp calling for him to step down, there is a possibility he could also quit the Diet.

For now all he’s saying is he needs time to consult his supporters before making a decision.

“I am acutely aware of my responsibility as a lawmaker, but I received many votes from my supporters in the (Lower House) election three years ago, telling me to work through my term,” Fujinami told a news conference Friday in Tokyo.

On Thursday, the Supreme Court notified Fujinami of its decision to turn down an appeal by the 66-year-old lawmaker, endorsing an earlier high court ruling that gave him a suspended prison term and a fine of 42.7 million yen.

The decision by the petty bench of the top court settles a 10-year case in which Fujinami was first acquitted by the Tokyo District Court, then found guilty in a reversal by the Tokyo High Court.

Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi said Friday he would respect Fujinami’s need to consult his supporters.

At a separate news conference in Tokyo, a pale-faced Fujinami apologized.

“As a public figure, I keenly felt responsibility,” he said. “I deeply apologize for disturbing the public.”

Saying that he was “very disappointed” with the country’s judicial system, Fujinami stressed that he still believes he is innocent.

He declined to comment on whether he will run in the next Lower House election, to be held before next October.

Fujinami’s departure from the LDP was apparently made to lessen the impact of the case on the ruling coalition, which is at odds over whether to ban political donations from businesses.

New Komeito, which once bashed the LDP for its “pork-barrel nature,” has called for a ban on corporate donations, while the LDP has been pushing strongly to revise the law to allow them.

When asked to comment on the donation issue, Fujinami declined.

“Please allow me not to give a comment,” he said.

The Recruit scandal prompted major parties to carry out a number of political reforms. In 1995, the Political Funds Control Law was revised to ban corporate donations to individual politicians, beginning in January 2000.

Secretary General Mori said that political donations from businesses to individual politicians should not be banned and that the issue should be discussed separately from the Fujinami case.

Mori argued that an individual could have too much influence on one particular politician if corporate donations are banned as stipulated in the Political Funds Control Law to take effect on Jan. 1.

LDP officials have called for the revision of the law to continue allowing individual politicians to receive corporate donations, although the other parties made the 1995 revision in a bid to wipe out political corruption.

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