• Kyodo

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Aomori Gov. Morio Kimura is increasingly under pressure to step down over allegations that he had an extramarital affair with a local woman who had sought the governor’s counsel on tax matters.

On Wednesday, 39 members of the 51-seat Aomori Prefectural Assembly submitted a nonbinding motion urging Kimura to resign, saying the governor has “failed to give a convincing explanation” over the allegation and “bears a grave responsibility for causing turmoil in the prefecture’s administration.”

Those backing the motion consist of 28 members of the Liberal Democratic Party, the largest force in the assembly, and nine members of a conservative group from the opposition camp.

In its Feb. 6 edition, the weekly newsmagazine Shukan Shincho reported that Kimura, 65, had an affair with a woman in Goshogawara, Aomori Prefecture, from 2001 to 2002 after he received a letter from her complaining of her dire economic circumstances.

The woman was reportedly receiving public livelihood assistance and consulted with the governor on “tax matters.”

Although the motion was initially prepared by the opposition in the assembly, the LDP group, concerned that the scandal could have a negative impact on the party’s performance in next month’s local elections, decided to join in calling for the governor’s ouster.

Kimura, 65, was re-elected to his third term in January with support from the LDP, New Komeito and the New Conservative Party.

The motion is expected to be approved by the assembly Friday, as its supporters make up a majority.

Although the motion does not have legally binding power to oust Kimura, he will be thrown into an extremely difficult position.

When the LDP members told him of their intention to submit the motion, Kimura reportedly replied that he takes it “seriously and will decide what to do about it.”

Kimura later said he would “carefully consider the matter” when asked by reporters if he was ready to step down.

Following the magazine report, Kimura told the assembly last month that he had had “exchanges” with the woman “out of sympathy and a desire to give her encouragement.”

He has filed a damages suit against the magazine and Masami Tanabu, an Upper House member elected from Aomori Prefecture who the governor said was “deeply involved in the magazine article.”

Kimura said the article was “based on a fiction that the woman was considering publishing in a book.”

However, he has refused to give detailed accounts of his relations with the woman, triggering protests from a local female teachers union and a petition for his resignation.

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