Executives of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan on May 7 approved a plan for restoring the party membership of Ichiro Ozawa, its former president, who was found not guilty on April 26 on charges of falsifying political fund reports.
The approval was granted after party Secretary-General Azuma Koshiishi proposed the reinstatement, effective May 10, in the executives’ meeting. The official approval will be given by the party’s Standing Officers Council on May 8.
Ozawa’s standing as a party member will be reinstated for the first time in one year and three months since February 2011 when it was suspended in response to the mandatory indictment from a citizens' prosecution inquest panel.
If Ozawa's party membership is restored, he will be able to run in the DPJ presidential election as well as cast ballots for the election.
On May 7, Koshiishi met Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda prior to the executives’ meeting. In that meeting, held at the prime minister’s official residence, Koshiishi told Noda that he will start internal party procedures to restore Ozawa’s DPJ membership.
In the executives’ meeting, Koshiishi distributed a paper to offer the reasons why he plans to reinstate Ozawa’s party membership.
Though the party had decided that Ozawa’s membership will be suspended until the ruling on his trial is finalized, Koshiishi said, “We cannot foresee when the trial will end.”
In response, Seiji Maehara, chairman of the party’s Policy Research Committee, said that the DPJ should delay the issue until after the lawyers serving as prosecutors in Ozawa’s trial decide on whether to appeal the case (to a higher court). The deadline for the decision will be May 10.
Hideo Hiraoka, chairman of the Administration Committee, also said that Ozawa should fulfill his duty to explain the issue.
After their discussions, however, the participants accepted Koshiishi’s plan.
After the executives' meeting, Koshiishi said in a news conference that even if the lawyers appealed the case, the party will restore Ozawa’s membership.
In his trial, Ozawa was charged with conspiring with his aides on falsifying entries in the reports of his political fund management organization, Rikuzankai, in regards to the purchase of land in Tokyo’s Setagaya Ward in October 2004.
Immediately after the Tokyo District Court found him not guilty on April 26, Koshiishi indicated that, after the Golden Week holidays, which ended May 6, he would take the internal party procedures necessary to reinstate Ozawa’s party membership.
After his DPJ membership is restored, Ozawa, 69, who is opposed to a proposed consumption tax hike, is expected to face a showdown with Noda over the issue.
Noda has said that he would stake his political life on doubling the consumption tax rate to 10 percent by 2015. Ozawa, who is leading the largest group in DPJ, has clearly stated his opposition to the tax hike, saying that cuts in government expenditures should come first.
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