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Prime Minister Promises Reform After By-election Loss

June 26, 1989

TOKYO (AP) _ Prime Minister Sousuke Uno promised political reforms Monday following a by-election loss by his Liberal Democratic Party, which has been shaken by scandal after nearly 35 years in power.

Uno also acknowledged that reports of his having kept a mistress had caused problems for his personal leadership of the party and government.

On Sunday, Socialist Party candidate Kinuko Ofuchi won a seat in Parliament’s upper house in the by-election in Niigata, northern Japan. A Socialist had held the seat, but the district traditionally has been conservative.

″I never expected that we would lose so badly,″ Uno said Monday.

Press reports suggested voters were influenced by allegations that Uno paid a geisha to be his mistress for four months in 1985. At a news conference Monday, the prime minister said: ″I’m not in a position to comment.″

He said a new 3 percent sales tax, the Recruit influence-buying scandal and and farm issues were major factors in the loss at Niigata.

Uno has refused comment on the reports of a mistress, calling it a private matter.

″I have respected political ethics for 30 years and I have not done anything unethical,″ he said Monday, but added: ″I think it is regrettable that I caused trouble″ through personal matters.

A weekly magazine published the initial report about the geisha, without naming her.

After the polls closed Sunday night, former geisha Mitsuko Nakanishi, 40, said in a national television interview she was the woman. She said Uno paid more than 3 million yen (about $21,430) to her and her geisha house so she would be his mistress.

The case has tarnished the ″clean″ reputation that led to Uno’s selection as prime minister a month ago.

His predecessor, Noboru Takeshita, resigned to take responsibility for the Recruit scandal, in which the information and publishing conglomerate is accused of trying to influence policy through bribes and bargain-priced stock shares.

Prosecutors have charged four aides to senior politicians and 13 businessmen, bureaucrats and legislators in the case.

Sunday’s election was watched as an advance indicator of voting next month for half the seats in the upper house.

Mrs. Ofuchi, the winner, campaigned against the sales tax, which took effect April 1 along with income tax cuts; criticized Uno’s party because of the Recruit scandal, and apparently won favor with rural voters oposed to opening Japan to foreign farm products.

On Monday, Uno said the Liberal Democrats ″intend to listen attentively to the people’s voices″ and will try to restore public confidence by making political reforms ″to prevent recurrences of the same wrongdoings.″

His party now holds now holds 143 of the 251 seats in the upper house.

A telephone survey of 10,000 people conducted June 16-19 indicated only 16.7 percent supported Uno’s government, the Nihon Keizai, Japan’s leading financial newspaper, reported Monday.

That was better than the 13.1 percent support rating for Takeshita in March, but the paper said 52.8 percent of those questioned opposed to Uno’s government. The remaining 30.5 percent expressed no opinion, it said.

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