NAGAOKA, Niigata Pref. – Former Foreign Minister Makiko Tanaka said Saturday she will seek to resume her career in national politics as an independent in a bid to realign Japanese politics.
The outspoken daughter of the late former Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka resigned from the House of Representatives in August 2002, following allegations she had misused state funds for her secretaries, but used a news conference to break her silence on Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and his ruling Liberal Democratic Party, to which she still officially belongs.
“My political position, my goal, is a political realignment,” Tanaka, 59, told reporters in her political hometown of Nagaoka, Niigata Prefecture, her first press conference since announcing earlier this month that she would run in the upcoming general election.
Koizumi “was embraced by faction politics as soon as he was elected president” of the LDP in April 2001, Tanaka said. “Nothing has changed as he began to leave things to the party leadership and bureaucrats, and to take care of business circles.”
Tanaka helped Koizumi win the party presidency and become prime minister. In return, Koizumi named her foreign minister in his first Cabinet, but sacked her in January 2002 after she tried to shake up the Foreign Ministry following a series of corruption scandals and lost a prolonged battle with ministry bureaucrats.
After submitting a letter of resignation to the LDP on Wednesday, Tanaka said she no longer holds out hope for the party.
At the same time, she downplayed suggestions that she would instead work with the main opposition party, the Democratic Party of Japan.
“I can no longer trust” the LDP, Tanaka said, adding that the party’s leadership has changed in recent years.
The LDP suspended her party membership for two years in June 2002 after media reports in April alleged she had misused state funds for her aides, which she denied before a Lower House ethics panel.
Prosecutors launched an investigation into the allegations but last month said there was no case against her.
The LDP is expected to put her resignation letter on hold, however, until after the Nov. 9 election due partly to fears that vocal attacks by the popular and sharp-tongued Tanaka could hurt its performance at the ballot box.
As for the DPJ, Tanaka said the country’s largest opposition party is the same as the LDP in that its members have mixed policy positions.
She envisions a realignment in which lawmakers gather and form a party based on shared policies, with a range of policy-based parties offering voters a wider choice, she said.
In her pursuit of that, which she said would take time with the House of Councilors election next June and other possible elections in sight, Tanaka said she will collaborate with like-minded lawmakers from both the LDP and the DPJ.
In the upcoming election, however, she said her collaboration will focus on several people planning to run as independents, as she acknowledged that it would be difficult for lawmakers affiliated with existing parties or party factions to join forces with her at present.
“I hope each lawmaker will be able to work together beyond party boundaries,” she said.
Tanaka is expected to run in the House of Representatives election for the seat she gave up in August last year, in the Niigata No. 5 district.
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