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Friday, July 6, 2007
Ozawa vows to exit if opposition camp fails to win majority
By MASAMI ITO
Democratic Party of Japan President Ichiro Ozawa declared Thursday that he would resign if the opposition camp fails to win a majority in the Upper House election July 29.
Ozawa told reporters Thursday morning that the ideal scenario would be for the DPJ to win a majority on its own, but the bottom line is that all the opposition parties band together.
"This is the greatest opportunity and the last chance" for the DPJ to seize control, Ozawa said. "And if I cannot achieve (an opposition Upper House majority), it will be pointless for me to remain the leader."
The ruling coalition controls 132 of the 242 seats in the upper chamber, with the Liberal Democratic Party holding 109 and New Komeito 23. The DPJ has 83 seats.
Since public support for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Cabinet has dropped drastically since he took office in September, the chances of the ruling bloc losing its majority in the chamber loom large.
Ozawa has said he would like to become prime minister if the DPJ manages to take control of both houses in the future, but health concerns have raised doubts in the DPJ that he would be physically up to the task.
"I leave the fate up to the public . . . and if they choose (me), I have no other choice," Ozawa said. "I would fulfill my duties as a politician — and the highest position would be prime minister."
Ozawa emphasized the importance of winning the election.
"Even if the ruling bloc has a great majority in the Lower House, it would have a hard, if not impossible, time managing the government if (the opposition parties) win a majority in the Upper House," he said.
Ozawa criticized Abe's Cabinet ministers for making a spate of publicly unpopular remarks, ranging from former Defense Minister Fumio Kyuma's assertion that the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki Prefectures "couldn't be helped" and Foreign Minister Taro Aso's suggestion that Japan should explore the possibility of going nuclear, to health minister Hakuo Yanagisawa's derisive reference to women as "child-bearing machines."
Abe's Cabinet "is managing the government based on nationalistic ideas," Ozawa said.
Another major flaw in the Abe government is how it dealt with the pension record fiasco, which has triggered public outrage, Ozawa said. Rather than dealing with it in December when he found out about the problem, Abe let it slide until May, when the DPJ brought it to public light in the Diet.
"Concern for the livelihood of the general public (by Abe's Cabinet) is extremely weak," Ozawa said. "In the face of public criticism, the government is finally moving to take action to solve (the pension fiasco), but it is too little, too late."
The opposition parties "cannot trust a government with that kind of attitude — and now, it is time for the general public to judge for themselves," he said.
Ozawa has been elected to the House of Representatives 13 times. At the age of 47 in 1989, he became secretary general of the ruling LDP, but left along with a group of other LDP lawmakers in 1993. Since then, he has led both Shinshinto and the Liberal Party before being elected DPJ president in April 2006.