• Kyodo

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Former House of Representatives member Muneo Suzuki said Saturday he intends to run in the next Lower House election under a new party he plans to form.

Suzuki, 56, is currently on trial for bribery and other charges and has pleaded not guilty. He told his supporters he plans to set up the party before the next Lower House election, which must be held by fall 2007.

Speaking at a gathering of his supporters in Obihiro, Hokkaido, Suzuki said his party would field candidates both in Hokkaido districts and the proportional representation section of the Hokkaido bloc, but he has not decided in which he will run.

Suzuki lost in a bid for a seat in the House of Councilors election in July when he ran in the Hokkaido district as an independent, garnering 485,382 votes.

“The 480,000 votes cannot be wasted,” he told his supporters at the meeting.

He said his friend and singer Chiharu Matsuyama has expressed willingness to run for the Lower House election under his party.

The Tokyo District Court plans to hand down a ruling in Suzuki’s trial on Nov. 5 concerning four charges — two counts of taking bribes, one count of unreported political donations and one count of committing perjury in the Diet.

Suzuki is charged with receiving 6 million yen in bribes from Shimada Kensetsu, a Hokkaido construction company, in 1997, and 5 million yen from Yamarin, a Hokkaido timber company, in 1998.

In July, prosecutors called for a four-year prison term and an 11 million yen fine, saying Suzuki’s behavior degraded the important government posts he held.

Suzuki was a Lower House member of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, elected to the chamber six times beginning in 1983.

He left the party in March 2002 before his arrest in June that year.

He refused to resign his Diet seat, but lost it when the lower chamber was dissolved last Oct. 10 for the Nov. 9 general election.

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