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Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2006
Ozawa retains DPJ helm, is hospitalized
Party makes overtures to other opposition forces in '07 Diet poll runup
By MASAMI ITO
The Democratic Party of Japan officially reinstalled Ichiro Ozawa as president of the largest opposition force Monday at its extraordinary party convention in Tokyo.
"Our goal at the DPJ is to take over power and create a new Japan by breaking from the past and vested interests. This is real reform," Ozawa said at the meeting.
Right after the convention, however, he entered a Tokyo hospital due to a cold, DPJ officials said, adding that he will stay there for a few days for medical checks.
Acting DPJ President Naoto Kan and Secretary General Yukio Hatoyama were also endorsed at the meeting to continue in their posts.
According to Kan, Ozawa's personal doctor recommended that he have a checkup because he will have heavy tasks as DPJ head, including preparing for the Upper House election.
The presidential campaign kicked off Sept. 12, but with no other candidates running, Ozawa won a two-year term without a vote.
Social Democratic Party leader Mizuho Fukushima, People's New Party head Tamisuke Watanuke and former Nagano Gov. Yasuo Tanaka attended the meeting as guests, indicating the DPJ is trying to increase cooperation with other opposition forces in the runup to next summer's Upper House election.
Earlier this month, Ozawa announced his policy platform, in which he stressed the need to address the growing inequality between rich and poor by creating a safety net to protect people from fierce economic competition.
On foreign policy, Ozawa said Japan needs to build a truly equal alliance with the United States while at the same time creating trusting relations in Asia, especially with China and South Korea.
Ozawa criticized Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, who will step down Tuesday, saying he ran a "demagogic government" that was extreme and biased. He did not elaborate.
During the convention, DPJ policy chief Takeaki Matsumoto was also reappointed to his position, and Diet affairs chief Kozo Watanabe became "Supreme Adviser" to the party. Former Vice President Yoshiaki Takagi took Watanabe's place as the head of Diet affairs.
Ozawa is a 13-term member of the Lower House who was first elected in 1969. In 1989, at age 47, he became secretary general of the Liberal Democratic Party but broke from the party with a group of LDP members in 1993, triggering the LDP's first loss of power in nearly 40 years.
Since then, Ozawa led Shinshinto, which dissolved in 1997, and was president of the Liberal Party, which formed in 1998 and merged with the DPJ in 2003.
Ozawa took over as head of the DPJ in April after Seiji Maehara resigned as president to take responsibility for false allegations made by the party that a son of LDP Secretary General Tsutomu Takebe had shady financial connections with Livedoor Co. founder Takafumi Horie.