Ex-Japanese Leader to Quit Party Over Scandal

Times Staff Writer

Former Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone announced Sunday that he will give up his membership in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party to assume responsibility for an influence-buying scandal that occurred while he was in office.

Nakasone, 71, also said he will resign as leader of the influential party faction that he has headed since 1966 and give up his membership in the party’s council of elders.

Motoharu Morishita, secretary general of Nakasone’s faction, announced the decision after meeting the ex-prime minister at his home.


The apology and Nakasone’s action to remove himself from the front line of decision-making is widely seen to be aimed at removing a major obstacle standing in the way of the designation of Foreign Minister Sosuke Uno, 66, to succeed outgoing Prime Minister Noboru Takeshita, 65. Although himself untainted by the scandal, Uno is a lieutenant of Nakasone’s faction.

Only three days ago during interrogation in Parliament, Nakasone had declared that his testimony under oath itself constituted a “misogi” (ceremonial absolution of sins) for the scandal. He also said he had no intention of resigning the seat he has held in the lower house of Parliament for 42 years. Factions of the ruling party’s members of both houses of Parliament, who pledge loyalty to their leader in exchange for patronage and financial support, control the power within the ruling party.

Although both leaders have denied any wrongdoing, Nakasone and Takeshita have acknowledged receiving massive funds from Recruit Co., an information and real estate conglomerate at the core of the influence-buying scandal.

Takeshita, who on April 25 announced he would resign to assume his portion of responsibility for the scandal, called Nakasone’s move “a fine decision.” Asked if he himself was prepared to leave the party, Takeshita cited his effort to round up a consensus for a successor and said, “I have no intention of saying anything about that now.”

The prime minister ran into the first snag Sunday night in his effort to hand his job to Uno when he met ex-Prime Minister Takeo Fukuda, who returned earlier in the day from a trip to the United States.

Fukuda bluntly told Takeshita that he was “astounded” to see news reports appear while he was gone that the party was leaning toward the selection of Uno--a statement that was taken as an expression of opposition to Uno.


Fukuda, 84, who some party elders are supporting as Takeshita’s successor, urged Takeshita to end the traditional practice of one leader serving as both party president and prime minister and give the posts to two people. Takeshita, however, rejected the suggestion.