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Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2008

Ozawa to seek third DPJ term

Staff writer

Ichiro Ozawa of the Democratic Party of Japan announced Monday he will run for a third term as the party's president.

The largest opposition party's presidential election is drawing the spotlight because the winner could become the next prime minister if the DPJ sweeps the next general election, which must be held by September 2009.

"With the support of my fellow comrades, I would like to announce my candidacy for the presidential election and I would like to ask the party members and supporters to hand down a decision for the third time," Ozawa told reporters.

Official campaigning for the DPJ presidency doesn't start until Sept. 8, but it appears unlikely at this stage any candidate will oppose Ozawa.

If no one else runs, he will be re-elected at an extraordinary party convention Sept. 21. A DPJ president is elected for a term of two years.

Ozawa reiterated his strong intention to win the next general election and seize power from the Liberal Democratic Party-New Komeito ruling coalition.

"The government led by the LDP and New Komeito has no sense of people's lives and lacks action, and we must put an end to it as soon as possible," Ozawa said. "Every day, my feeling that the DPJ must create a new government, a new livelihood and a new Japan grows stronger and stronger."

In the past, people in and outside the DPJ have pointed out that Ozawa might choose not to become prime minister for several reasons, including a history of heart problems. But once again Monday, Ozawa brushed such concerns aside.

"If the public chooses to entrust the DPJ with the politics of Japan, naturally I must fulfill my duties and responsibilities," he said.

Ozawa said if he is re-elected party president, he will reveal his policy platform Sept. 21 and then begin choosing party executives and ministers for the DPJ's shadow Cabinet.

It appears an urgent task for the DPJ to overcome the negative impact of the sudden resignation of two of its Upper House lawmakers.

Last Friday, four members of the Upper House, including the DPJ's Hideo Watanabe and Yasuhiro Oe, held a news conference to mark the inauguration of a new political party, the Kaikaku Club.

Their decision to leave the party triggered strong internal criticism because both won their Diet seats on the DPJ's proportional representation ticket.

"Politicians should act on their own beliefs and take responsibility for their own actions, and I don't think I should criticize that — I too left the LDP," Ozawa said. "But . . . proportional representation votes are cast for the party. Therefore, it is natural from a logical (viewpoint) that you would basically lose your seat in the Diet if you lose your party membership."

Ozawa has been elected 13 times to the Lower House. He bolted from the LDP in 1993, triggering its first fall from power in nearly 40 years.

Since then, he has been leader of the now disbanded Shinshinto and the Liberal Party before it merged with the DPJ in 2003. In April 2006, Ozawa stepped in as head of the DPJ after his predecessor, Seiji Maehara, resigned to take responsibility for a scandal. Ozawa was re-elected as party president in September 2006.

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The Japan Times

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