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2ND LD: Kubo, former vice premier, dies at 74.

TOKYO, June 26 Kyodo


Wataru Kubo, a former lawmaker who served as vice premier and finance minister in 1996 when he was a member of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), died of chronic kidney failure Tuesday night at a Kagoshima hospital, his family said Thursday. He was 74.

Kubo, a former member of the House of Councillors, was secretary general and deputy leader of the SDP when the party joined a coalition government under Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa in 1993. Hosokawa's government was the first setup without the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) since 1955.

Kubo was appointed deputy prime minister and finance minister concurrently from January to November 1996 in Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto's first cabinet, formed by a coalition of the LDP, the SDP and New Party Sakigake.

The SDP changed its English name from the Japan Socialist Party (JSP) in 1991 and its Japanese name in 1996.

Former Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama said he did not expect Kubo to pass away so early. Murayama led the SDP with Kubo as secretary general and became premier in 1994 when the LDP, SDP and Sakigake created the coalition.

''When I was prime minister, I left the job of party management entirely up to him and I think he took pains with the job as he was the first secretary general of the party in a ruling coalition,'' Murayama said.

Kubo left the SDP in January 1997 and was involved in the formation of the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) in April 1998.

Former DPJ President Yukio Hatoyama said, ''We have lost an important person who can guide the nation in this time of political confusion. It is extremely regrettable for the DPJ.''

Hatoyama said he respected Kubo ''as a senior colleague with whom I could feel familiar'' since they worked closely under the Hosokawa government in which Hatoyama was a vice chief cabinet secretary.

SDP chief Takako Doi said she was surprised by the news of Kubo's death. ''He was always a key player who moved things ahead during the decade of upheaval that began with the Hosokawa cabinet.''

''We can say he was a living witness to the era of turmoil, and such a person suddenly passing away makes me fully realize that we are entering into a new era,'' Doi said.

Doi was chairwoman of the JSP when Kubo became her deputy in 1990 and was head of the SDP when Kubo left the party in 1997 to protest her policy line.

Kubo was first elected to the upper house in 1974 from Kagoshima Prefecture and served four terms until he retired in July 2001. He was awarded the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun -- the state's top honor for contributions to the state and society -- in November 2001.
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Publication:Japan Policy & Politics
Date:Jun 30, 2003
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