It seems the longer that one stays in power, the more likely he is to become corrupted. Former Gov. Eisaku Sato of Fukushima Prefecture was arrested in October — shortly after his resignation on suspicion of receiving a bribe from a contractor in a prefectural dam project — 18 years after he was first elected governor (1988). When he resigned in late September, he was in his fifth term.

In an attempt to prevent corruption of longtime officeholders, a bill was once submitted to the Diet that would have prohibited re-election of a governor for a fourth term. But it was killed because of the fear that the bill might violate the principles of equality under the law and the freedom to choose one’s occupation as guaranteed by the Constitution.

In a well thought-out move, the Liberal Democratic Party has decided not to support fourth-term candidates in gubernatorial elections or mayoral elections in major cities. One term lasts four years. The policy will be applied starting with local elections in April 2007. The New Komeito party adopted a similar policy in 1998. The Democratic Party of Japan followed suit in 2001. The Japan Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party do not have a policy on multiple terms.

Some local assemblies have passed bylaws that offer food for thought. In August 2004, the Saitama Prefectural Assembly adopted Gov. Kiyoshi Ueda’s proposal — applied to him alone — that he will not seek a fourth term. A bylaw passed in 2003 by the Suginami Ward Assembly in Tokyo says the ward mayor will make efforts to serve no longer than three terms.

Gov. Yoshiki Kimura of Wakayama Prefecture, recently arrested on suspicion of bid rigging, was in his second term. Gov. Tadahiro Ando of Miyazaki Prefecture, who resigned this week after a no-confidence vote against him over his suspected involvement in bid rigging, was in his first term.

Not all officeholders have become corrupt after serving more than three terms. So there are no uniform solutions to corruption. Officeholders need to maintain discipline while voters need to exercise good judgment when electing officials.

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