Man of same name as party head runs in upper house election

A small political party on Thursday registered a candidate for the July 21 House of Councillors election with the same name as the party head, who cannot run because of a past criminal conviction.

The New Party Daichi headed by Muneo Suzuki, 65, a former House of Representatives lawmaker, registered on its proportional representation list the 73-year-old namesake, a company president and the head of a nonprofit environment group.

"I will do my best, as having the same name (as the party leader) must be fate," Suzuki told reporters in Kimitsu, Chiba Prefecture, where he lives. He is among 11 candidates fielded by the New Party Daichi.

The two Suzukis happened to meet some decades ago and have kept in touch because their names are the same, according to candidate Suzuki.

Meanwhile, the party leader Suzuki said in Sapporo, Hokkaido, that it is "up to voters" whether they associate the candidate with the leader. The New Party Daichi was established in the northern Japan prefecture in 2005.

The head of the party, who formerly served as deputy chief Cabinet secretary and is known for his efforts to improve Japan's ties with Russia, lost his lower house seat in September 2010 after his conviction for bribery and other offenses was finalized.

The Hokkaido native spent a year in prison through December 2011 and is now seeking a retrial. His civil rights have been suspended for five years.