Former Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone announced he will retire from politics after the Liberal Democratic Party decided Monday not to include him in a party proportional representation list for the upcoming general election.
The 85-year-old Nakasone was dropped from the LDP’s official list of candidates for the Nov. 9 election in line with a rule that candidates 73 or older will not be on the party’s proportional representation ticket.
Nakasone told a news conference he will not run in the Lower House election from a single-seat constituency. Asked why, he said: “It will mean that I will have to run against an incumbent LDP member. I don’t want to cause any trouble.”
He said he will continue to work with younger Diet members, however, to achieve a revision of the Constitution and the Fundamental Law of Education.
“Regardless of whether I hold a Diet seat, I hope to continue my political activities both domestically and internationally,” he said.
Whether Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi would make Nakasone’s case an exception had been the focus of public attention, given Nakasone’s long and outstanding political career. Monday’s decision by the LDP means Koizumi has refused Nakasone’s plea to continue serving as a Diet member.
On Thursday, Koizumi urged Nakasone and former Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa, 84, to give up their seats in accordance with the new age rule.
Miyazawa accepted the request. But Nakasone refused, saying he wanted to accomplish a “last job” to bring about revisions to the Constitution and the Fundamental Law of Education.
Nakasone said the LDP’s decision to exclude him was unacceptable because it “tramples on the party’s official pledge.” In 1996, the LDP promised to keep him at the top of its proportional representation list as long as he lived.
Nakasone’s ouster is seen as the result of persistent demands from rank-and-file LDP members who have argued that the LDP needs young blood in its key positions to improve its public image ahead of the election. Many perceive the LDP as being run by an aged old guard.
The LDP has been dominated by elderly veteran lawmakers due to its extremely strict seniority promotion system.
The average age of LDP candidates in the coming election is 55, while that of the opposition Democratic Party of Japan is 47.
Nakasone, a former bureaucrat at the powerful internal affairs ministry, began his political career by successfully running for the House of Representatives in 1947.
Nakasone survived 20 elections and became the fourth person to serve as a Diet member for five decades.
He was once nicknamed “the political weather vane” due to his habit of suddenly switching sides. In the 1972 election for the LDP presidency, Nakasone decided to compete with Takeo Fukuda and Kakuei Tanaka. But he suddenly sided with Tanaka, dooming Fukuda, the favorite in the race.
He held posts such as transport minister, defense agency chief and international trade and industry minister before serving as prime minister from 1982 and 1987.
During his tenure in the top office, Nakasone led various administrative reforms, including privatization of Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Public Corp. and Japanese National Railways.
On Aug. 15, 1985, he became the first postwar prime minister to pay a visit in an official capacity to Yasukuni Shrine, a controversial site where Japan’s war dead are enshrined along with Class-A war criminals.
He was also known for his close diplomatic ties with the U.S. and President Ronald Reagan in particular.
Many of Nakasone’s Cabinet members are known to have received prefloatation shares in Recruit Cosmos Co., a real estate subsidiary of the job-placement giant Recruit Co., in a stock-for-favors scandal of the late 1980s.
He left the LDP in 1989 to take responsibility for the scandal, only to rejoin the party in April 1991.
Age rule to be enforced
Shinzo Abe, secretary general of the Liberal Democratic Party, said Monday his party will enforce a new retirement age of 73.
“The LDP has now become the party that can replace the old with the new,” Abe told a news conference at LDP headquarters in Tokyo.
Earlier in the day, Abe told former Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone that the party had decided to exclude him from a list of candidates for the upcoming election.
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