• Kyodo, Jiji

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Upper House member Anri Kawai, who was found guilty last month of vote-buying in the 2019 election, on Wednesday submitted her resignation as a lawmaker, a source close to her said.

Kawai, 47, who left the ruling Liberal Democratic Party due to the scandal, has chosen to quit before the two-week period in which it is allowed to file an appeal ends Thursday. She would have been removed as a lawmaker automatically if and when the court ruling is finalized.

Her husband Katsuyuki Kawai, 57, a former justice minister and a Lower House member, is also standing trial over the vote-buying scandal.

On Jan. 21, the Tokyo District Court sentenced Anri Kawai to 16 months in prison, suspended for five years, for conspiring with her husband, who also left the LDP, to violate the election law by handing out ¥1.6 million in total to four Hiroshima Prefectural Assembly members between March and May in 2019.

She denied all charges against her.

As her resignation will leave open an Upper House seat in her Hiroshima constituency, a by-election to choose her replacement is slated to be held on April 25.

Also scheduled that day are a Lower House by-election for the No. 2 constituency in Hokkaido following the resignation late last year of Takamori Yoshikawa, former agriculture minister, who was indicted without arrest last month over a bribery scandal, and an Upper House by-election in Nagano Prefecture following the death of Yuichiro Hata, former land minister.

They will be the first parliamentary polls since Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga took office in September last year unless he dissolves the all-important Lower House and calls a snap general election before the by-elections.

The results could deal a blow to Suga, whose approval ratings have recently plummeted over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, if his LDP fails to secure seats in all three constituencies.

Upon hearing of her decision to step down as a lawmaker, local politicians expressed anger over her conduct.

"She should have resigned much earlier," a Hiroshima assembly member said. "At a time that is tough for everybody due to the coronavirus outbreak, she is insincere, causing trouble (with the election scandal)."

In talks with reporters the same day, Jun Azumi, Diet affairs chief of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, claimed that Anri's case is serious as former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, as well as Suga, who served as Abe's chief Cabinet secretary, were also deeply involved in the case.

"It must not be brought to an end with her resignation only," Azumi said, suggesting that the CDP will pursue their responsibility through deliberations at the Lower House Budget Committee, scheduled to start Thursday.

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