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Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2006

Ozawa remains DPJ leader


Staff writer

Ichiro Ozawa was in effect named Tuesday to a second term as the Democratic Party of Japan president after no other candidates came forward to challenge him for the post.

News photo
Ichiro Ozawa speaks during a news conference Tuesday in Tokyo after it was announced he would continue as president of the Democratic Party of Japan. KYODO PHOTOS

The DPJ election campaign officially kicked off Tuesday afternoon, but with Ozawa as the only candidate, he won the top spot without a vote.

"I believe that the general public has great expectations for the DPJ," Ozawa told reporters in the morning. But "with unified cooperation, I believe (the DPJ) can get more and more support."

Ozawa will officially be made party president for a two-year term on Sept. 25 at an extraordinary party convention.

Ozawa told a news conference after the announcement that as there are a number of elections coming up, party members apparently decided now was not the time to change leaders.

"This is the first time in the 37 or 38 years of my career as a politician -- during which I have had the experience of (running in) many elections -- that (I have won) without any competition," Ozawa said. "I believe this is the result of a decision that for now party unity and cooperation is the answer to the public's expectations."

News photo
Ichiro Ozawa, president of the Democratic Party of Japan, faces reporters in Tokyo on Tuesday morning.

Ozawa, who has repeatedly stressed the importance of the DPJ seizing the reins of government, declared that his biggest aim as party president will be to do well in the Upper House election next summer.

"From now on, just as I have done up to now, I would like to do my best to (achieve) this major goal," Ozawa said.

Ozawa announced his policy platform Monday, including the introduction of a safety net to protect people from fierce economic competition, and drawing up a new fundamental education law to prevent what he calls the collapse of the education system.

Regarding diplomacy, Ozawa stressed the need for Japan to "reflect" on World War II and to promote coexistence on an individual level as well as between nations.

Ozawa has been elected 13 times to the Lower House. In 1989, at the age of 47, he became secretary general of the LDP but bolted with a group of LDP members in 1993, triggering the party's first loss of ruling status in nearly 40 years.

Since then, he has been leader of Shinshinto and the Liberal Party. Shinshinto was formed in 1994 and disbanded in 1997. Ozawa and his followers then set up the Liberal Party in 1998, which merged with the DPJ in 2003.

Ozawa took over as DPJ president in April after Seiji Maehara resigned to take responsibility over an attempt to discredit a son of LDP Secretary General Tsutomu Takebe with an e-mail -- which turned out to be fake -- that suggested a shady funds transfer to the son from Livedoor Co. founder Takafumi Horie, who is under indictment on charges of accounting fraud.



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