The arrest of Livedoor Co. founder Takafumi Horie has rocked the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, which had unofficially supported the 33-year-old Internet tycoon in the Sept. 11 general election as a standard-bearer in Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s reform drive.

On Tuesday, LDP Secretary General Tsutomu Takebe expressed regret for having supported Horie. “The party didn’t authorize or recommend (Horie as a candidate), but I personally must humbly (express my) regret,” Takebe told a news conference in the morning.

Takebe insisted he supported Horie in the 2005 election “on my own judgment, without consulting with Prime Minister Koizumi.”

Horie ran in the Hiroshima No. 6 district against an ex-LDP heavyweight, Shizuka Kamei, who had opposed Koizumi’s postal privatization drive and left the LDP to form Kokumin Shinto (People’s New Party) before the election.

Kamei won the Lower House seat, defeating Horie by more than 26,000 votes.

During the election campaign, Takebe stumped for Horie, calling him his “brother” and “son.”

Takebe reportedly later drew Horie’s portrait during an interview for a Livedoor newsletter. The picture appeared on the cover.

During an Upper House question session Tuesday morning, Democratic Party of Japan lawmaker Satsuki Eda asked Koizumi if he bears any responsibility as LDP president for having supported Horie.

“It would be grim to think what would have happened to the LDP’s financial policy if the suspect Horie had won the election,” Eda said.

Koizumi brushed aside the criticism, saying, “(Horie’s arrest) and the (support) LDP executives gave Horie in the general election last year are separate issues.

“It is important for various people to act with an unflinching spirit in a new era, but the most important thing is to obey the law in any case,” Koizumi said. “It is as a matter of course to deal strictly with an illegal act.”

Internal affairs minister Heizo Takenaka meanwhile qualified his support for Horie, saying that as economic and fiscal policy minister at the time, he had stumped for him for the election “at the request of the party.”

Takenaka said he does not believe the government has vouched for Horie’s actions. “I think it’s wrong to directly link the problem . . . with Koizumi’s structural reforms.”

Agriculture minister Shoichi Nakagawa said, “It can be said, being wise after the fact, that it was not morally a good thing for the LDP to support” Horie, now that he has been arrested on suspicion of violating the securities law.

Transport minister Kazuo Kitagawa, a member of New Komeito, the LDP’s junior coalition partner, urged the LDP to “explain to the people as a party” why it had supported someone who allegedly broke the law.

DPJ President Seiji Maehara told party executives, “The LDP is not exempt from responsibility for treating Horie as its authorized candidate and for using him as an advertisement to liven up its election campaign.”

Toranosuke Katayama, secretary general of the LDP’s Upper House caucus, said the party should be more careful about selecting candidates in next year’s election. “It’d certainly be better that a candidate’s popularity and name recognition are high, but it is also necessary from now on to examine more closely the substance of the person,” Katayama told a news conference.

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