Wataru Kubo, a former Social Democratic Party secretary general who served as vice prime minister-cum-finance minister in 1996, died Tuesday night at a Kagoshima hospital, his family said Thursday. He was 74.

A former House of Councilors lawmaker, Kubo in 1993 became secretary general of the then Social Democratic Party of Japan under party chief Tomiichi Murayama.

He assumed the post of vice prime minister-finance minister from January to November 1996 in Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto’s first Cabinet, formed by a coalition of the Liberal Democratic Party, the SDP and New Party Sakigake.

Kubo left the SDP in January 1997 due to disagreements with party chief Takako Doi and was involved in the creation of the Democratic Party of Japan in April 1998.

A one-time high school teacher and then local assemblyman, Kubo was first elected to the Upper House in 1974 from Kagoshima Prefecture and served four terms until he retired in July 2001. He was awarded the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun — the state’s top decoration — in November 2001.

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