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Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2007

Fresh off victory, Ozawa quick to go for Abe's jugular

Staff writer

Democratic Party of Japan leader Ichiro Ozawa appeared before the media Tuesday for the first time since his party's sweeping victory in the Upper House election, slamming Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for refusing to relinquish power despite the ruling bloc's crushing defeat.

News photo
Ichiro Ozawa

Abe's determination to stay on as prime minister "is absurd and illogical," Ozawa said. "Japan has a parliamentary system of government and it is unthinkable that (Abe's) Cabinet would remain just because the ruling coalition has a majority in the Lower House — after it lost a majority in a national (Upper House) election."

Asked to confirm rumors he did not make a public appearance Sunday to declare his party's victory because he was ill, and to describe his health, Ozawa merely said, "my physical condition is fatigue."

The DPJ captured 60 seats while the Liberal Democratic Party, led by Abe, gained only 37. Despite the crushing defeat, however, Abe has reiterated his intention to continue on as leader of the LDP and of the nation.

"The fact that the public supported us is a sign that the public expressed a vote of no confidence against what Abe's Cabinet has done and is trying to do," Ozawa said, adding the poll reflected voters' anger and anxiety.

Of the 242 seats in the House of Councilors, the DPJ now holds 109, making it the No. 1 party in the chamber — the first such setback for the LDP in half a century.

The LDP now has only 83 seats. Adding the 20 of its coalition partner, New Komeito, the DPJ is still on top.

This means that a DPJ lawmaker will become president of the chamber, and that the opposition camp, with its new majority, will be able to reject various bills submitted by the ruling coalition, making it difficult for Abe and his bloc to put their policies in action.

"By winning a majority in the Upper House, there is no doubt that (the chamber) will become the political limelight," Ozawa said. "For issues we are against, we will basically draft bills and put (our policies) in action for the public, just like we promised."

One key issue for the extraordinary session in autumn is the bill to extend the special antiterrorism law so Maritime Self-Defense Force warships can continue providing fuel for naval forces in the Indian Ocean whose nations are involved in counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan.

"We voted against (the antiterrorism law before) so there is no way we would (change our position now) and vote for it," Ozawa said.

Regarding Upper House executives, including the president, Ozawa said he will leave it up to the DPJ lawmakers in the chamber.

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The Japan Times

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