WORLD : Beleaguered Uno to Shun Spotlight in Last Two Days of Election Drive

From Times wire service s

Prime Minister Sosuke Uno, hounded by women angered over his alleged hiring of geishas for sex, decided today not to appear in public in the final two days of a national election campaign.

Japanese vote Sunday for half of the 252 seats in the Upper House of the bicameral Diet, Japan's Parliament, in elections expected to hand Uno's Liberal Democratic Party its first major defeat in 34 years.

Women voters, who are leading the rush to the Socialist Party, have taken to the streets to protest charges Uno paid two geishas and a bar hostess for long-term sexual relationships.

Uno, who is married, took office June 2 in the wake of a bribery scandal that forced Prime Minister Noboru Takeshita to resign.

Uno was touted as a "Mr. Clean" who could restore faith in his party. But opinion polls show that less than two months after he took office, Uno's popularity is below 10%. Political analysts, including several senior members of Uno's own party, say he will be forced to resign if his party suffers a major setback Sunday.

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