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Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2010
Ozawa avoids Diet resolution to testify
Okada can't muster numbers for show of force
By KANAKO TAKAHARA and NATSUKO FUKUE
Democratic Party of Japan executives failed Monday to agree to pursue a Diet resolution demanding that party heavyweight Ichiro Ozawa testify before the Lower House Ethics Panel over his political funds scandal.
DPJ Secretary General Katsuya Okada instead told reporters he will once again meet with Ozawa to try and persuade him to testify before the Council on Political Ethics.
In Monday's formal meeting of top party executives, Okada had hoped to get the green light to propose and pass a Diet resolution at the ethics panel.
The DPJ executives, split between pro-Ozawa members and supporters of Prime Minister Naoto Kan, were deadlocked.
Ozawa's backers, most notably DPJ Upper House Caucus Chairman Azuma Koshiishi, have insisted Ozawa does not need to testify in the Diet as he is already facing a trial involving a ¥400 million land purchase by his fund management body. Okada disagrees.
"A large portion of the public believes he (should explain himself)," said Okada, claiming that even if Ozawa goes on trial, it does not relieve him of his moral obligation to offer a thorough explanation to the public.
If Ozawa refuses, the party will make an "organizational decision" to demand his testimony in the Diet, Okada said.
Ozawa's stubbornness has become an obstacle to steering the Diet, Okada said, adding, "It may (negatively) affect various election outcomes."
Ozawa supporters see the move to summon him as an attempt by Kan to boost his plunging support rate and stabilize his party base by turning the issue into a political power game between the two.
Asked if Okada would propose that the party expel Ozawa if he refuses to stand before the council, Okada said, "I am not assuming such a thing would happen."
The Diet ethics council can adopt a resolution calling for Ozawa to testify if nine or more members ask for the resolution and a majority of the attendees agree. The resolution would not clear the council unless the DPJ agrees to it.
Even if the resolution is adopted, Ozawa would not be bound to offer unsworn testimony there. Nonetheless, it is expected to have political impact because if Ozawa continues to refuse to appear, it would be in the face of a Diet resolution.
A power struggle has erupted within the party between Ozawa and his supporters and the DPJ leadership headed by Kan. There is speculation that Ozawa and his allies may leave the party if the conflict is not resolved in his favor.