The House of Representatives passed a motion Friday demanding the resignation of lawmaker Muneo Suzuki, who was arrested earlier in the week on corruption charges.

Lawmakers took a standing vote at a plenary session to pass the resolution, as agreed earlier in the day among members of the ruling and opposition blocs. The opposition camp had called for an open ballot in a bid to clarify lawmakers’ voting behavior.

It is the first time such a resolution has been passed in the Lower House. A similar resolution was cleared by the House of Councilors in 1997 against Tatsuo Tomobe, a former Upper House lawmaker convicted of fraud.

All but one of the Lower House members present stood in support of the motion, while six Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers walked out of the chamber. Former Defense Agency chief Fumio Kyuma, remained seated in opposition.

When asked why he remained seated during the vote, Kyuma, a senior LDP member, said it is up to the individual lawmaker, voters or the law to decide if a politician should resign from the Diet.

“Cornering a lawmaker (and forcing him to accept) such a resolution is against the Constitution (that guarantees the positions of Diet members),” said Kyuma, who recently became secretary general of the LDP’s largest faction, which included Suzuki among its members until he left in March.

“Even if (Suzuki) is a notorious politician nationwide, his position should be protected,” said Shinya Ono, one of the LDP lawmakers who left the chamber before the resolution was put to a vote. “I am opposed to submitting such a resolution in the Diet.”

The other lawmakers who walked out before the vote were LDP members Takao Fujinami, Koki Chuma, Sadakazu Tanigaki and Taro Kono.

Said DPJ leader Yukio Hatoyama: “Suzuki should have given up his Diet seat a long time ago. The ruling coalition should reflect on the fact that it would have prevented the resolution from being voted on in the chamber.”

Earlier in the day, LDP Secretary General Taku Yamasaki said his party had decided to support the resolution as Suzuki’s arrest had already been approved by the chamber.

The opposition attempted to submit the resolution to the plenary session twice in

March and again in May but was rejected by the majority of the ruling bloc. New Komeito supported the resolution the second and third time.

Suzuki was arrested Wednesday for allegedly accepting 5 million yen from a Hokkaido-based lumber company in exchange for pressuring the Forestry Agency to give the firm preferential treatment.

Suzuki has denied giving political favors, saying he “merely received 4 million yen as congratulatory money” when he became deputy chief Cabinet secretary in 1998.

Medical bills approved

The House of Representatives approved a set of medical expenses bills Friday that would require salaried workers to pay 30 percent of their medical expenses beginning April 1, up from the current 20 percent.

The legislation, approved by a majority in the ruling coalition, was immediately sent to the House of Councilors.

The opposition Democratic Party of Japan voted against the bills, and three other opposition parties boycotted the vote to protest the fact that the coalition rammed the bills through a committee meeting last week.

The Upper House is expected to begin deliberations on the bills Monday.

The bills are among those the government and ruling coalition hope to push through the legislature during the current Diet session.

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