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Saturday, Aug. 28, 2010


Mr. Ozawa back in the race

Former secretary general of the Democratic Party of Japan, Mr. Ichiro Ozawa, announced Thursday that he will run in the Sept. 14 election for the next DPJ chief against Prime Minister Naoto Kan, who had expressed his intention to run. The two must do their utmost to prevent their duel from becoming an internecine power struggle.

They should talk about what kind of a nation they want to build and how they will handle such issues as the economy and social welfare. They also should suggest how to best resolve the issue of relocating U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Okinawa Prefecture. Mr. Ozawa suffers from a bad image stemming from questionable handling of political funds reports by his office. To gain the understanding of party members and voters, he needs to explain more about the scandal.

Mr. Ozawa, who resigned together with then Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama over funds scandals in June, had wanted Mr. Kan to establish an "all-party setup" in which he could exercise his political influence. Despite mediation by Mr. Hatoyama, Mr. Kan refused to comply with the request. It is clear that Mr. Ozawa decided to run in order to keep his influence within the party.

Mr. Kan's behavior as prime minister is another factor behind Mr. Ozawa's decision to challenge him. Skipping discussions with DPJ lawmakers, Mr. Kan suddenly started talking about raising the consumption tax, which is believed to have cost the ruling camp its Upper House majority in the July 11 election. That he or his deputies in the DPJ have shown no sign of trying to break the resulting impasse in the chamber seems to have added fuel to the criticism of Mr. Kan.

It also appears that Mr. Kan has almost given up on the DPJ's principle of lawmakers taking the initiative from bureaucrats in developing policies. More than that, the biggest problem is that the Kan Cabinet's policy direction is unclear.

Mr. Ozawa calls for faithfully implementing the DPJ's election manifesto for the 2009 Lower House election, which elevated the DPJ to a ruling party. The big problem for him is securing the funds needed to carry out these policies. Given the nation's financial condition, he must not hesitate to prioritize policy promises and explain why.

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