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Japanese Lawmaker Muneo Suzuki Resigns from the Ruling Party - 2002-03-15


A powerful but scandal-tainted Japanese politician has stepped down from the country's ruling party. A public uproar over lawmaker Muneo Suzuki's alleged influence peddling threatened to further damage Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, who is struggling with falling popularity ratings.

Japanese legislator Muneo Suzuki wiped away tears as he announced on live television Friday that he was resigning from the Liberal Democratic Party. He says he "regrets causing a lot of trouble so he will leave the party."

Mr. Suzuki, who will remain in Parliament for now, is under fire for a number of alleged wrongdoings, including meddling in foreign policy and intervening in awarding government contracts. The lawmaker apologized for using poor judgment but testified in Parliament that he always meant to obey the law.

The highly publicized scandal, which emerged in January, has sparked a national uproar and threatened to further weaken Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi. Political analysts say the Suzuki affair could have dented public confidence and exposed Mr. Koizumi to rivals who want him to give up his goal of reforming Japan's deeply troubled economy.

Mr. Koizumi has so far avoided making a strong public attack on Mr. Suzuki.

The prime minister has lost some public support since firing his popular foreign minister, Makiko Tanaka, in January after she publicly argued with Mr. Suzuki for interfering in foreign policy issues.

One leading opposition politician said Friday that the Suzuki scandal paints a picture of the cozy ties among Japanese politicians, bureaucrats and business and shows that the prime minister can resolve nothing if he is unable to solve the problems closest to him.

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