TOKYO -- Tokyo's 80-year-old governor swept to an overwhelming fourth-term victory in vote counting today, defying Japan's top political kingmakers and prompting reports that the head of the governing party will resign.
The governing Liberal Democratic party's top power brokers, led by LDP secretary-general Ichiro Ozawa, had joined a coalition of political forces trying to push him out because of his age.
[Mr. Ozawa said today that he will resign his party post, the Associated Press reported.]
By late this morning, vote counting in yesterday's election was giving Shunichi Suzuki, the governor, a rapidly widening lead that threatened to raise new questions about how long Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu could maintain his fragile grip on his office.
With 74 percent of the vote counted, Mr. Suzuki had 1,762,891 votes, compared with 1,093,000 for his party-backed opponent, former national television news anchorman Hisanori Isomura.
Most commentators have agreed with Masayoki Fukuoka, a political scientist, who said last month that if Mr. Suzuki wins by more than 500,000 votes, Mr. Ozawa would be forced to resign as LDP secretary-general to take responsibility for the debacle.
Without Mr. Ozawa to round up political support for major policy decisions, Mr. Kaifu's position would become even shakier, Mr. Fukuoka and other commentators have said.
Mr. Ozawa was widely credited with cutting a deal that stripped Mr.Suzuki of the national LDP's endorsement as well as the campaign war chest.
He also gave the party's nod to Mr. Isomura in exchange for support from two key opposition parties for the Kaifu Cabinet's controversial pledge of $9 billion to help the United States pay for the Persian Gulf war.
Those widely published news reports enabled Mr. Suzuki, a hard-line conservative who had not been especially popular in recent years, to portray himself as "the first Japanese casualty of the gulf war," a stance that helped to swing public sentiment behind him as an underdog being attacked by national politicians who were interfering in a local issue.
Most of Tokyo's own LDP members of the Diet, Japan's parliament, defied the national leadership and threw their support to Mr. Suzuki.