• Kyodo

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Former Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto said Saturday he will not run in the Sept. 11 general election and will retire from politics due to poor health.

“My health is not good and I can no longer work as a politician,” Hashimoto, 68, told supporters in Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture. “Thank you so much for having supported me.”

Hashimoto served 14 times as a Liberal Democratic Party member in the House of Representatives and was prime minister from January 1996 to July 1998.

His second son, Gaku, 31, will run on the LDP ticket in Hashimoto’s Okayama No. 4 district in the upcoming House of Representatives election.

Hashimoto resigned as leader of the largest LDP faction in July 2004 over a scandal involving 100 million yen in undeclared political donations to his faction from a dentists’ lobby.

He had indicated that he would consider running in the upcoming election on the proportional representation portion of the ballot, but the LDP leadership has taken the position the party will only put candidates running in single-seat districts on its proportional representation roster.

Hashimoto graduated from Keio University’s faculty of law. He was first elected in 1963 at age 26, running in his father’s district after the elder Hashimoto had died.

As prime minister, Hashimoto advocated financial and administrative reforms and paved the way for streamlining the central government structure into the current 12 ministries and agencies. The consumption tax was raised to 5 percent from 3 percent during his tenure.

On the diplomatic front, he was credited with creating an accord with the United States over the return of Futenma Air Station in Okinawa Prefecture and adopting guidelines for Japan-U.S. defense cooperation.

He worked to promote diplomatic relations with China and the Middle East.

Hashimoto resigned as prime minister in July 1998 to take the blame for a defeat by the LDP in the House of Councilors election earlier that month.

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