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Hosokawa's Coalition Victorious in a Key Gubernatorial Election


TOKYO — Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa's coalition won a test-case election for governor of Ishikawa prefecture, or state, Sunday that tore another hole in the fabric of power of the once-almighty Liberal Democratic Party.

In the first head-on gubernatorial race between a candidate for Hosokawa's seven-party coalition and the Liberal Democrats, voters in the state west of Tokyo gave the coalition candidate, Masamori Tanimoto, the 48-year-old former vice governor, 288,085 votes, or 46.9% of the total.

Hiroshi Ishikawa, 65, a former upper house member of the Liberal Democratic Party, whose 38-year rule ended in August, won 277,426, or 45.2%. A Communist picked up the rest.

It was a badly needed victory for Hosokawa, who has come under increasing pressure to reveal details of a 100-million yen ($952,000) "loan" he has admitted receiving from a gangster-tainted parcel-delivery company.

The campaign became an extension of national politics, with Liberal Democrats insisting that Hosokawa disclose more documents and allow his former secretary to testify under oath in Parliament.

Hosokawa, stumping in the prefecture Saturday, called the election an "extremely important" test of the coalition's ability to unite behind candidates in preparation for both an upper house election and nationwide local elections scheduled for next year, as well as for the next lower house election.

The prime minister was among 100 members of Parliament who stumped during the campaign.

Tanimoto's victory marked the first time that a candidate not backed by the Liberal Democrats, who still control most of the gubernatorial and local assembly posts in the country, has been elected to the top post in Ishikawa.

The midterm death of the previous governor precipitated the election.

It also was the first time that the business community backed a non-Liberal Democrat in a gubernatorial election anywhere.

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