Hiroyuki Sonoda, a Lower House lawmaker who once served as deputy chief Cabinet secretary and acting policy chief of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, died of pneumonia on Sunday. He was 76.
Sonoda joined the ruling coalition that ousted the LDP from power in 1993. From 1994 to 1996 he held the post of deputy chief Cabinet secretary in the coalition government of Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama, which included the LDP.
Sonoda left the LDP twice in search of realignment in the political world. He developed wide personal connections across ruling-opposition lines, and was known as an advocate of fiscal reconstruction through a consumption tax increase.
Born in Kumamoto Prefecture, Sonoda was first elected to the Lower House in 1986 after the death of his father, former Foreign Minister Sunao Sonoda. Since then, he was elected 11 consecutive times.
He joined the LDP after he was first elected, but left the party in 1993 after a no-confidence vote toppled the government of Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa.
Sonoda worked with Lower House member Masayoshi Takemura in the establishment of a new political party called Sakigake, and played a central role in the party.
He returned to the LDP in 1999. Amid the global financial crisis caused by the collapse of U.S. investment bank Lehman Brothers in 2008, Sonoda, as acting chairman of the party’s Policy Research Council, led efforts to draw up an emergency economic package in collaboration with then Economic and Fiscal Policy Minister Kaoru Yosano.
In the LDP, Sonoda and Yosano called for the rebuilding of debt-laden public finances through tax hikes — competing against a camp led by former LDP Secretary-General Hidenao Nakagawa, who put priority on measures to promote economic growth.
After the LDP lost the reins of government, Sonoda left the LDP again in 2010, together with Yosano. Working with then Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara, Sonoda created Tachiagare Nippon (Sunrise Party of Japan) in an attempt to create a third pole in Japanese politics.
He shifted to three other political parties before returning to the LDP in 2015.
Since late last year, Sonoda had been admitted to hospital several times.