Former Japanese House of Representatives Speaker Hiroyuki Hosoda died Friday at age 79, his office said, less than a month after he left the post due to health reasons while insisting on running in the next general election.

Hosoda, who became lower house chief in November 2021, died at a hospital in Tokyo, amid criticism that he did not sufficiently explain his ties with a dubious religious group and sexual harassment allegations. The exact cause of death is not immediately known.

Hiroyuki Hosoda. (Kyodo) 

The bureaucrat-turned-politician served in key posts in the government and the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, including chief Cabinet secretary and party secretary general. He led the largest faction within the LDP for seven years from 2014.

At a 50-minute press conference in October, Hosoda, who became ensnared in late-career scandals, said he had undergone treatment for an enlarged prostate and a stroke, making it difficult for him to continue as speaker. But he said he could still work as a lawmaker.

The veteran politician had come under fire recently over his connections to the controversial Unification Church, while he was accused of sexually harassing female reporters and LDP officials, allegations that he denied.

As for his links with the organization, he said he had only attended events related to it in the past. Hosoda, meanwhile, said he believes that the suspected sexual harassment cases are "just rumors" as no one has yet come forward claiming to be a victim.

Last month's press conference was his first since the series of scandals surrounding the Unification Church came to light last year.

In September, Hosoda was hospitalized to receive preventive treatment for an issue linked to blood vessels in his brain. He was also taken to hospital in July after suffering heatstroke.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida offered his condolences to Hosoda's family, telling reporters at his office, "I'd like to express my respect for his efforts up to today." A by-election to fill the seat held by Hosoda is expected to be called in April, a government source said.

Born in Matsue in Shimane Prefecture, western Japan, Hosoda graduated from the University of Tokyo and entered the Ministry of International Trade and Industry, now the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, in 1967.

He left the ministry in 1986 and was elected to the lower house for the first time in 1990.

The LDP faction that the 11-term lower house member led was later helmed by former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who was fatally shot by a lone gunman during an election campaign speech in July 2022.

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