• Kyodo

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Police have now arrested four public officials here on suspicion of peddling influence and pressuring subordinates to vote for former Nagano Vice Gov. Fumitaka Ikeda in the Oct. 15 Nagano gubernatorial election.

The latest suspect, Masakazu Ichinose, 68, deputy mayor of Shiojiri, was arrested Friday for allegedly violating the Public Office Election Law in connection with the landmark race, won by novelist Yasuo Tanaka.

On Thursday, police arrested Minoru Nakamura, 59, head of the prefectural government’s construction office. This followed the arrests Wednesday of Eiichi Kubota, deputy head of the construction office, and Kimio Matsumura, head of Shiojiri’s general affairs department.

All were arrested on similar charges to Ichinose.

Ichinose allegedly conspired with Matsumura in July and pressured 10 city employees to pledge their support and vote to Ikeda. Ichinose submitted his resignation to Shiojiri Mayor Mitsuhiro Misawa on Friday morning before he was interrogated by the police. Departing Nagano Gov. Goro Yoshimura, who had handpicked Ikeda as his successor, on Friday expressed his “regret and apology” over the arrests.

Yoshimura, in his first news conference after the gubernatorial race, stressed that the arrests were “rare cases” and denied the prefecture had any plans to launch an independent probe into the events.

He admitted, however, that 36 employees of the prefecture’s construction office — including the two already arrested — have been interrogated by police.

In the same news conference, Yoshimura lashed out at Tanaka — who will take over as governor on Thursday — challenging his campaign promise of a public works review.

“(I’m afraid Tanaka) is talking (of a public works review) without proper knowledge of the issue at stake. I think he is merely repeating what opponents (of the projects) have told him,” Yoshimura said.

Tanaka, meanwhile, was invited Friday to stump for one of the candidates in Sunday’s Lower House by-election in Tokyo’s No. 21 constituency. Citing the success of his campaign in Nagano, Tanaka urged people on the streets to vote as independent citizens rather than as members of organizations.

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