Mikio Aoki, secretary general of the Liberal Democratic Party’s Upper House caucus, was promoted Monday without opposition to the position of caucus chairman.

Aoki, 70, responsible for the LDP’s campaign in the July 11 House of Councilors election, was promoted despite the party’s disappointing result at the polls.

As a recent change in party rules means he will serve as chairman for three years, he could be the key LDP person in the next triennial Upper House election.

“I have realized that my own responsibility as secretary general was very heavy,” Aoki told a general meeting of LDP Upper House members on Monday.

Before the July 11 election, Aoki said the LDP must win 51 or more seats; it won only 49, outperformed by the Democratic Party of Japan, with 50.

He filed his candidacy for the post of chairman because 15 fellow party members — the number required by party rules — recommended him for the post. Aoki said no other party members filed their candidacy for the position.

During the same meeting, Aoki appointed Toranosuke Katayama, former home affairs minister, as secretary general of the LDP Upper House caucus.

Aoki long served as secretary to the late Prime Minister Noboru Takeshita. He was elected to the Upper House in 1986 from Shimane Prefecture.

After serving as chief Cabinet secretary to the late Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi, Aoki was elected secretary general of the LDP’s Upper House caucus in July 2000.

Poll violator appeal fails

SENDAI (Kyodo) The Sendai High Court on Monday upheld the suspended prison terms handed to five campaign workers for Democratic Party of Japan lawmakers Azuma Konno and Sayuri Kamata for illegal electioneering in November.

If the convictions are finalized, the Sendai High Public Prosecutor’s Office is expected to file an administrative lawsuit to nullify the lawmakers’ Nov. 9 elections, and they could lose their House of Representatives seats.

Their defense team is expected to appeal the case to the Supreme Court.

In March, the Sendai District Court sentenced Koji Ebisu, chairman of the Japanese Electrical Electronic and Information Union’s Miyagi branch, Masahiko Kato, director general of the Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp. labor union’s Tohoku region headquarters, and Yoshikazu Aiza, leader of the NTT union, to between 20 months and two years in prison, suspended for four years.

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