TOKYO (AP) _ The governing party's candidate won a third term as provincial governor by a sharply reduced margin Sunday in one of two elections considered a test of the scandal-embroiled Liberal Democrats.

In Miyagi prefecture in northeast Japan, Socialist Party candidate Shuntaro Honma easily won election as governor Sunday. Liberal Democratic candidate Kazuo Aichi had withdrawn after admitting he received more than $60,000 from a company accused of influence peddling and insider trading.

Three Cabinet ministers have resigned because of links with the company, and the scandal and a new sales tax have sent Prime Minister Noboru Takeshita's popularity to a record low.

In the final tally of the prefectural election in Chiba, Tokyo's eastern neighbor, incumbent governor Takeshi Numata, 66, garnered 971,687 votes, while Shoji Ishii, who was supported by the Japan Communist Party, got 786,238 votes, the Japan Broadcasting Corp. reported. The voter turnout was 47.3 percent, compared to 30.70 percent in the previous gubernatorial election.

The prefecture, traditionally a conservative stronghold, elected Numata in 1985 with 781,000 votes to 271,000 for his opponent, also a Communist.

Numata's sharply narrower margin of victory in the election could indicate trouble for the ruling party in voting scheduled this summer for half of Parliament's upper house, where it holds 143 of 251 seats.

Large losses in those elections would endanger Takeshita's chances in October to win another two-year term as party president and prime minister. Opposition parties are already calling on Takeshita to resign.

In the Miyagi race, a final tally showed that Honma, 49, received 502,372 votes, compared to 140,979 for Seiki Suzuki, a conservative independent, and 125,016 for Yoshiaki Shoji, who was supported by the Communist Party, the Japan Broadcasting Corp. said.

The voter turnout was 49.56 percent, the lowest turnout in a prefectural gubernatorial election since the end of World War II. Voter turnout in the 1985 election was 50.40 percent.

Recruit Co., an information conglomerate, reportedly offered hundreds of thousands of unlisted shares in a real-estate subsidiary at bargain prices to more than 150 influential people, including politicians and businessmen. Recipients reaped handsome profits by selling the shares after public trading began.

Prosecutors have arrested a dozen people in connection with the scandal.

The Liberal Democrats were stung at polls last month, when they lost a parliamentary by-election in Fukuoka prefecture to a candidate representing their strongest rival, the Socialist Party.

A poll published Saturday by Asahi Shimbun, Japan's second largest newspaper, showed support for Takeshita plunged to 15 percent, his worst rating and the third-lowest level in postwar history.