• Kyodo


Former Foreign Minister Makiko Tanaka will run in a general election expected to be held in November, her aides said Thursday.

Tanaka, one of the few politicians who can rival Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi in popularity, is set to convey her decision to an executive meeting of supporters Sunday, the aides said.

Tanaka resigned from the House of Representatives in August 2002 following allegations that she misused the state-paid salaries of her secretaries. Prosecutors said Tuesday that she had not misappropriated the money and decided not to pursue a criminal case against her.

Tanaka will seek to regain her Lower House seat in Niigata Prefecture’s No. 5 electoral district.

The district was the political fiefdom of the late Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka, a powerful figure in the 1970s and Makiko’s father.

She is expected to run as an independent candidate; the ruling Liberal Democratic Party suspended her membership in June last year for a two-year period following a magazine report alleging the misappropriations.

Her office has asked the executives of her support group to hold the executive meeting in Nagaoka, Niigata Prefecture, on Sunday to discuss her candidacy, according to a supporter.

“She will definitely run,” one of the executives said Thursday.

Three other politicians have expressed their intention to vie for the seat:

The LDP incumbent, Yukio Hoshino, 71.

Former home affairs minister Katsuhiko Shirakawa, 58, an independent who is seeking support from the Democratic Party of Japan and the Social Democratic Party.

Minoru Saito, 45, from the Japanese Communist Party.

Niigata residents hailed the news that Tanaka will try to regain her seat.

“Citizens are happy,” a senior official with her political support group said in Nagaoka, Niigata Prefecture. “We need someone who can hustle in this economically depressed society.”

Meanwhile, LDP reaction to the news was mixed. Secretary General Shinzo Abe said, “She is naturally entitled to file her candidacy. At this opportunity, I think it is important for her to fully explain the allegations against her.”

One LDP heavyweight said, “I have no doubt she’ll get all the attention in the election and make headlines. I’m afraid that might affect all the LDP candidates.”

But another dismissed her bid: “Even if she gets her seat back, it won’t matter because she’ll just be an independent.”

Other politicians said they were girding to fight for Niigata’s votes.

“I expected she would run,” Hoshino told reporters at the Prime Minister’s Official Residence.

He criticized Tanaka, saying, “She never received petitions from her own electoral district and paid little attention to it.”

Tanaka, 59, helped Koizumi win the LDP presidency and prime ministership in 2001. Renowned for her sharp tongue, she is still popular in her district and is believed to hold a lead over the other candidates.

Tanaka joined the LDP a month after she first won the seat as an independent in the Lower House election in July 1993. She was appointed director general of the Science and Technology Agency in June 1994.

In April 2001, she became Japan’s first woman foreign minister, in Koizumi’s first Cabinet, but was sacked nine months later along with then Vice Foreign Minister Yoshiji Nogami after she tried to shake up the Foreign Ministry amid a spate of corruption scandals and a prolonged battle with ministry bureaucrats.

The scandals included political pressure on the ministry from lawmaker Muneo Suzuki.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.