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Home > Media Reviews > News Review Last Updated: 14:53 03/09/2007
News Review #216: May 18, 2004

Japan's Ozawa Quits as Leader of DPJ After Four Days

Reviewed by Hitoshi URABE

"Japan's Ozawa Quits as Leader of DPJ After Four Days"


As the article reports, Mr Ozawa, on the eve of the Democratic Party of Japan's election to select a new leader, said he would not run. The election was set when Mr Kan, the former leader, was obliged to step down last week. (on Mr Kan's resignation, see News Review #214.)

This was certainly a very bewildering move by Mr Ozawa. And the people most baffled by the announcement were the members of his own party, the DPJ. Mr Ozawa's victory had been negotiated and agreed upon beforehand by the majority of party members, and the election was considered to have only a ceremonial significance.

Although there is always a lot more to it then meets the eye, especially when politics are involved, what made Mr Ozawa to change his mind the last moment is widely recognized as again, a tactical failure, or more like a gaffe, by a senior member of DPJ, Mr Okada, the party secretary general, acting in place of Mr Kan after his resignation.

Sequence of events, as it became known to the public is as follows. A couple of days ago, Prime Minister Koizumi, through his aid, said that he had not participated in the national pension fund system before 1986. Mr Koizumi maintained there was nothing wrong with it as the system was not compulsory at the time, thus would not constitute an evasion of any sort. Mr Okada of DPJ, however, criticized Mr Koizumi harshly, that while the whole country is eyeing the behaviors of the lawmakers with regard to pension contributions, Mr Koizumi was hiding the facts and deceiving the people by lying that he has had no delinquencies. During the while, the DPJ as a whole was busy trying to find someone to succeed Mr Kan, or perhaps more precisely, persuade the members within the party to accept Mr Ozawa as the new leader.

Then, last night, it was revealed by Mr Ozawa himself that he was not participating in the national pension plan before 1986 when it was not a mandatory program. Like it or not, it became awkward, to say the least, for Mr Ozawa to become the leader of DPJ, where the party's secretary general condemned Prime Minister Koizumi as a liar only matters before for exactly the same situation Mr Ozawa was found to be in.

This morning, on the day of the election to select the new leader, the DPJ, in haste chose Mr Okada to be the candidate, so that the record would show he won the election and not chosen through a back-room deal.

It appears what seemed to be a political turmoil in Japan during the past three weeks was actually a reveal of the britterness of the Democratic Party. It was first Mr Kan, then the leader, who demanded fiercely for resignations of those ministers skipping pension contributions in the past, later to find Mr Kan himself was being delinquent, leaving him with the option only to quit. Then it was the second in rank, as the acting leader, Mr Okada, who vigorously condemned Mr Koizumi as a liar, effectively denouncing the only candidate found at last to succeed Mr Kan as his own leader.

It seems an irony that the final winner is Mr Okada, chosen as the new leader of the party. This drama, if not a comedy, has been perhaps more complex than fiction, which has induced a cynical suspicion among some that there might have been a carefully written scenario from the outset.

Perhaps it was Mr Ozawa's tactics, if so, likely to have been adopted at the last moment, by quitting from running for the leader of the DJP, to drag down Prime Minister Koizumi who is in the same situation for not participating in the voluntary pension system then. The DPJ is said to promote the issue as the party's major strategy in the political struggle with the ruling LDP. But for the moment people have not shown much response, for one thing people are skeptical as to condemning non-actions when the action was only voluntary and not required, could compose a viable accusation.

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