- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 10, 2002

TOKYO Makiko Tanaka enjoyed a rapid ascent to become Japan's first female foreign minister, but her even quicker tumble into disgrace culminated yesterday when she resigned from parliament amid accusations of misused public funds.
Mrs. Tanaka was once the most popular member of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's Cabinet. First entering parliament in 1993, she won votes with her frank style and sharp-witted quips, once labeling Mr. Koizumi "the Weirdo."
Mr. Koizumi tried to tap that popularity by appointing her his foreign minister after he took office in April 2001.
Her resignation from politics yesterday underlines a spate of scandals that have tainted Mr. Koizumi's ruling Liberal Democratic Party this year and left him under pressure for presiding over a "scandal parliament."
Her departure also revived the family ghost of her father, former Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka, who resigned over a bribery scandal in the 1970s.
In fact, Mrs. Tanaka stepped down the same day a critical expose of her, "Makiko Tanaka: A Study," hit the bookstores. It was written by popular author Takashi Tachibana, whose 1974 piece, "Kakuei Tanaka: A Study," contributed to the downfall of her father.
Public opinion swept against Mrs. Tanaka since she was called before parliament last month in an unprecedented move to have her testify about the corruption charges on live, nationwide television.
"It's unfortunate. Like father, like daughter," said office worker Megumi Wakasumi, 30.
Mrs. Tanaka, 58, told reporters she was stepping down to restore public trust in politics and because she had been stripped of her party privileges as a disciplinary measure by the Liberal Democratic Party.
"I'm like a bird without wings," she said. "The suspension virtually paralyzes my activity as a lawmaker."
Mrs. Tanaka unlike her father, who was convicted of bribery had not been charged with any crime.
But she was accused of misappropriating an undisclosed amount of public funds to pay staff who were not on her official payroll. She was virtually kicked out of the party June 20.
Mr. Koizumi came under fire during this year's parliament session, which saw four other lawmakers resign amid corruption accusations. Last month, former ruling-party heavyweight Muneo Suzuki was arrested and charged with taking $41,000 in bribes, but he kept his seat in parliament.

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