Ex-Lower House Vice Speaker Kozo Watanabe Dies

Society Politics

Tokyo, Aug. 24 (Jiji Press)--Japanese political doyen Kozo Watanabe, former vice speaker of the House of Representatives, the lower chamber of parliament, died of natural causes on Sunday. He was 88.

Watanabe, who also served in key posts including health minister, trade minister and supreme adviser to the now-defunct Democratic Party of Japan, died at a hospital in his home prefecture of Fukushima.

Watanabe started his national political career as a member of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, being elected to the Lower House for the first time in 1969. He won election to the Lower House 14 times in a row.

In the LDP, he belonged to the faction led by former Prime Minister Noboru Takeshita and was counted as one of seven leading figures seen as possible successors to Takeshita, along with Ichiro Ozawa, who was once known as a power broker. Watanabe served as Diet affairs chief of the party and minister for home affairs, among other key posts.

In 1993, he left the LDP to form the former Japan Renewal Party and then the New Frontier Party. Watanabe broke with Ozawa after the dissolution of the New Frontier Party. Watanabe became the longest-serving vice speaker of the Lower House, holding the position for 2,498 days from 1996.

[Copyright The Jiji Press, Ltd.]

Jiji Press