• Kyodo

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Saitama Gov. Yoshihiko Tsuchiya officially stepped down Friday over a political funds scandal, with the prefectural assembly accepting his resignation at a plenary session.

“With my daughter arrested and prefectural government offices . . . raided, it is inexcusable and I keenly feel responsible” Tsuchiya, 77, told the assembly.

Vice Gov. Nobuyuki Aoki will take over Tsuchiya’s duties until a new governor is elected Aug. 31. Tsuchiya’s resignation means he automatically loses his position as head of the National Governors’ Association.

The ruling and opposition parties will be scrambling to choose candidates for the special election, because it could serve as a gauge of how the House of Representatives general elections will go in the fall.

Tsuchiya announced his intention to resign last Saturday, a day after public prosecutors raided his office, official residence and private home, and two days after his eldest daughter, who served as his political fund manager, was arrested for allegedly violating the Political Funds Control Law.

He submitted a letter of resignation to the assembly on Monday.

His daughter, Momoko Ichikawa, 53, is suspected of misappropriating 113 million yen in political funds donated to Tsuchiya between 1998 and 2002.

On Friday, former Saitama Municipal Assembly member Tomosuke Sugisaki announced his intention to run for governor.

“I want to get break down all the old (political) binds and create a prefectural government that meets the needs of the prefecture’s citizens,” the 40-year-old Sugisaki said.

He had been tapped to run for the Diet on the Liberal Party ticket in the next general elections, but he will leave the party to run in the gubernatorial race.

Tsuchiya was elected Saitama governor in 1992 and was in his third term. He was elected to the House of Councilors five times and rose up the Diet ranks to serve as president of the Upper House for three years starting in 1988.

His second daughter, Shinako Tsuchiya, 51, is a Liberal Democratic Party member in the House of Representatives. She is in serving her second term and also holds the post of parliamentary foreign secretary.

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