House of Representatives member Toru Okutani of the Liberal Democratic Party died Tuesday of a liver ailment at a hospital in Kobe, his family said. He was 51.

A native of Kobe, Okutani was a secretary to Kenzaburo Hara, a retired Lower House member who once served as speaker, before joining the Hyogo Prefectural Assembly.

He won a seat in the Diet’s Lower House in 1998 under the proportional representation system, replacing Minoru Noda, who lost his seat in a vote-buying scandal.

Okutani was later re-elected. He belonged to the LDP faction led by LDP Secretary General Taku Yamasaki.

With Okutani’s death, Tomokatsu Kitakawa, 51, a native of Osaka Prefecture, will become a Lower House member, as he is next on the party’s proportional representation list for the Kinki region.

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