• Kyodo


Democratic Party of Japan member Azuma Konno said Wednesday he will resign from the House of Representatives, following a court decision earlier in the day that invalidated his victory in the 2003 general election.

The Sendai High Court invalidated Konno’s victory by applying the rule of guilt-by-association to illegal electioneering by his campaign workers.

Konno, 57, will be prohibited from running in Lower House elections in his electoral district — Miyagi Prefecture’s No. 1 constituency — for five years, according to the court decision.

Konno told a news conference in Sendai he will tender his resignation to the Lower House on Thursday.

“I resign because I take seriously the court ruling that I have failed to carry out my duty to check every action of my campaign staff to see whether there was wrongdoing,” Konno said.

If the resignation is formally approved by Sept. 15 — which is most likely — a by-election to fill the vacancy in the Miyagi No. 1 district will be held Oct. 23.

His announcement came three days after a DPJ-backed candidate in the adjacent Lower House constituency — Miyagi No. 2 — was defeated by the Liberal Democratic Party’s candidate in a by-election Sunday.

In the court decision, presiding Judge Yasushi Sato recognized the campaign workers in question as managers of organized campaigns for Konno, and rejected the legislator’s claim he took “considerable” caution to prevent illegal campaigning activities.

The ruling was in line with the requests of the Sendai High Public Prosecutor’s Office.

In a related case, the same court decided last month to ban former DPJ lawmaker Sayuri Kamata from running for office in her constituency for five years to hold her responsible for illegal electioneering carried out by her campaign workers.

Kamata, 40, was elected from Miyagi Prefecture’s No. 2 district in the November 2003 election. She resigned from the Lower House in December without contesting the guilt-by-association charge in court.

Konno, however, had asserted that the senior labor union members, whose guilty verdicts for illegal electioneering were finalized, were not working as managers of organized campaigns on his behalf and argued the guilt-by-association rule should not be applied.

Konno also claimed he paid full attention to ensuring legal compliance by his campaign staff. The defense counsel criticized the guilt-by-association rule as being “unclear.”

The prosecutors, however, accused Konno of not checking fully to make sure his campaign workers didn’t conduct illegal activities.

In December, the Supreme Court dismissed an appeal by five campaign workers for Konno and Kamata who were given suspended prison terms by a high court for illegal election campaign activities, finalizing their convictions.

The five, all key members of labor unions, were found guilty of concluding paid telephone-canvassing contracts with an affiliate of Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp. to support the two candidates.

In last Sunday’s by-election to fill the seat vacated by Kamata, LDP candidate Kenya Akiba defeated four rivals, including the DPJ’s Yukiko Momma. A DPJ source said Konno was under pressure to resign after the party lost Sunday’s by-election, because he had been criticized for not stepping down even though he and Kamata were in similar situations.

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