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Thursday, Jan. 17, 2008

Ozawa stakes career on Lower House contest

Staff writer

Opposition leader Ichiro Ozawa said Wednesday the next Lower House election will be the "final battle" of his political career and for the Democratic Party of Japan itself.

News photo
Ichiro Ozawa

"I will stake my political career on our bid to take power," Ozawa said in a speech at the DPJ's annual convention in Yokohama. "It will be the final battle for me as a politician, but at the same time, I think it will be the final political battle for the DPJ."

A Lower House election does not have to be held until September 2009, when lawmakers' current four-year terms expire. But political experts widely expect a snap election to be called this year as the public grows frustrated with the paralysis in Nagata-cho.

Ozawa refused to say whether he would retire from politics if the opposition fails to wrest control of the more powerful chamber from the Liberal Democratic Party-New Komeito ruling coalition.

Ever since the opposition camp took control of the Upper House last July, the DPJ has been attempting to trigger a premature Lower House election to take advantage of public discontent with a slew of scandals that surfaced under the administration of Shinzo Abe, who resigned as prime minister in September.

Ozawa lashed out against the ruling coalition's handling of the pension record-keeping debacle and bribery scandals in the Defense Ministry.

"As the saying goes, absolute power corrupts absolutely," Ozawa said, referring to the LDP, which has ruled Japan virtually uninterrupted for the past five decades. "Under the long-term rule of the LDP, both politics and the administration have become completely corrupt."

The convention adopted the DPJ's 2008 action plan, promising to maintain and expand support not only to rural areas but urban areas as well.

DPJ Secretary General Yukio Hatoyama said that for the party to win the election and unite the Diet, it "must win in at least 150 or more" of the 300 single-seat districts.

"It is a high hurdle, but without clearing this hurdle, (the DPJ) will not be able to realize a change in power," Hatoyama said.

The 480 members of the Lower House are chosen from 300 single-seat districts and regional proportional representation blocs.

In an "activity report" for 2007, the DPJ said it will not form a "grand coalition" with the LDP — an idea that surfaced in a closed-door meeting between Ozawa and Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda in November but was immediately rejected by the DPJ's top executives.

The DPJ "will bring down the LDP in the general election, aiming to actualize a change in power and to form a government centered on the DPJ," the report says.

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The Japan Times

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