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Japan power broker quits Parliament

There were two earthquakes in Tokyo Wednesday. One was a natural tremor that rattled cars and buildings with minimal damage. The other was a political earthquake: the fall of Shin Kanemaru.

Denounced by the public and deserted by his erstwhile allies, the 78-year-old Kanemaru, top power broker of the dominant Liberal Democratic Party, officially resigned his seat in Parliament because he had accepted a $4-million illegal contribution from a mob-related businessman.

Kanemaru held a brief news conference to declare, in agonized tones, that he was quitting public life to accept responsibility for the crime. "The one who is at fault here is Shin Kanemaru," he said.

A public apology and resignation sometimes can save the career of a disgraced politician here. But Kanemaru missed that chance because he declined to step down until he was forced out by a show of public disgust that threatened to engulf the party.

"There's something completely new going on in Japanese politics," said NTV news anchor Yoshiko Sakurai. "It's called people power."

As the power behind the throne for several prime ministers _ including the incumbent, Kiichi Miyazawa _ and as the champion fund-raiser in a political system that requires huge amounts of money, Kanemaru had contacts and clout unmatched here.

Although Miyazawa has had problems with political scandals in the past, he appears to be untouched by the current case. Accordingly, he might actually have more maneuvering room now than when he was working in the shadow of Kanemaru.