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Thursday, Dec. 16, 2010


Mr. Ozawa's chance to shine

Former Democratic Party of Japan chief Ichiro Ozawa should heed DPJ Secretary General Katsuya Okada's call to speak before the Lower House's Council on Political Ethics with regard to political fund-reporting irregularities involving Mr. Ozawa's aides. Mr. Ozawa could use his appearance before the ethics council as a chance to clear himself of persistent suspicions that he is linked to money-politics.

Although prosecutors decided not to indict Mr. Ozawa over the reporting irregularities, a citizens' legal panel overrode the decision in favor of indictment. If Mr. Ozawa believes in his innocence, he should explain his case before the ethics council.

In doing so, he could also address the problems of money-influenced politics during the Liberal Democratic Party's rule as viewed by him as an LDP insider politician and how he tried to overcome the problems. If he speaks frankly, it will go a long way toward ending confusion in today's political scene.

Mr. Okada's call is reasonable on the surface. Unfortunately, it appears designed as a means of helping raise the approval rate of the administration of Prime Minister Naoto Kan by diverting public attention from two Cabinet members — Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku and infrastructure and transport minister Sumio Mabuchi — against whom opposition forces passed censure resolutions in the Upper House. Because Mr. Kan, Mr. Okada and Mr. Sengoku are known for their anti-Ozawa stance, pro-Ozawa DPJ lawmakers suspect that Mr. Okada is trying to use Mr. Ozawa as a scapegoat. This has intensified intraparty bickering.

If Mr. Kan and Mr. Okada think that Mr. Ozawa's appearance before the Diet council will serve as a political cure-all, they are wrong. They should take a serious view of people's distrust of the Kan administration as reflected by the DPJ's defeats in a series of recent elections, such as a Lower House by-election in Hokkaido's No. 5 constituency, a Wakayama gubernatorial election and a prefectural assembly election in Ibaraki Prefecture. All party leaders, both former and current, are primarily responsible for restoring people's trust in the DPJ.

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