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Tanaka Resigns From Japan’s Ruling Party

October 22, 2003

TOKYO (AP) _ Makiko Tanaka, political firebrand and fierce critic of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, submitted her resignation from Japan’s ruling party Wednesday, enabling her to run as an independent in national elections next month.

Tanaka, whom Koizumi appointed as Japan’s first female foreign minister in 2001 when the two were on friendlier terms, is preparing to run for the lower house in the Nov. 9 election.

She has accused Koizumi of being a failure at reform and of being manipulated by party heavyweights such as former prime minister Yoshiro Mori.

Tanaka’s letter of resignation was submitted to Liberal Democratic Party headquarters Wednesday, a party official said on condition of anonymity.

The LDP won’t be able to make a decision on whether to accept it until the party’s ethics committee meets _ and this is unlikely to happen until after the election, the official said.

The delay is not expected to prevent Tanaka from running as an independent. She is one of the few politicians in Japan capable of rivaling Koizumi in popularity and could inflict damage on the prime minister’s campaign.

Tanaka and Koizumi were once close allies. She helped Koizumi win election as LDP president over two years ago when Koizumi presented himself to party voters as an outsider taking on the establishment.

In exchange, he made Tanaka his foreign minister but had to fire her about nine months later over a series of her public disputes with subordinates and diplomatic embarrassments.

Tanaka stepped down from Parliament shortly afterward amid allegations of fraud and accusations she misappropriated staff salaries. Prosecutors dropped their case against her this month, clearing the way for her to run for her old seat in Japan’s northern state of Niigata.

The LDP is backing incumbent Yukio Hoshino in the race. Independent candidate Katsuhiko Shirakawa is hoping to win an endorsement from the Democrats.

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