Wooing voters back to the Democratic Party of Japan after its humiliation in the September 11 election was always going to be hard for new leader Seiji Maehara. The arrest of one of his defeated politicians for the possession of drugs has just made that job even harder.
Kenji Kobayashi was arrested for possession of amphetamines on Sunday and reportedly admitted to police that he had been a regular user since 2001, the year he was first elected to the Diet.
In a statement issued yesterday, the DPJ announced that 41-year-old Kobayashi had been expelled from the party.
'The fact that someone connected to the party should have committed a crime such as this is very regrettable and we express our deepest apologies to the people of Japan,' said Goshi Hoshino, assistant to the party's president.
Kobayashi was arrested at his home after a police raid, in which 0.1 grams of amphetamines were seized. His private secretary and a former aide were also arrested, all three admitting the charges.
'I started using stimulants in about 2001 and I used them during the campaign,' the Mainichi newspaper said Kobayashi told police.
'This is really going to hurt the party in that constituency,' said Steven Reed, a professor of politics at Chuo University. 'The key thing is that they have kicked him out quickly.'
While being convicted of a crime in other countries might end a political career, this was not the case in Japan, he added.