Several “rules” exist about Ichiro Ozawa, the power broker of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan.
One is that Ozawa pulls strings behind the scenes when the media do not report on him, and he does not resort to such ploys when he frequently appears in the media.
In May 2011, the Liberal Democratic Party was preparing to submit a no-confidence motion against the Cabinet of Prime Minister Naoto Kan. Ozawa went into hiding and met with LDP leaders, such as former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori and former Secretary-General Makoto Koga.
Ozawa was plotting to have the no-confidence motion passed by drawing about 70 rebels from within the DPJ.
But one LDP lawmaker cautioned: “We will join hands with you, Mr. Ozawa, in bringing down the Kan administration, but we cannot go along if you want to become the prime minister. We will be in trouble.”
Ozawa is quoted as replying, “I well understand it.”
Ozawa did not stand for the DPJ leadership election after Kan stepped down. Instead, he supported Banri Kaieda, who was defeated by the current prime minister, Yoshihiko Noda.
Will Ozawa deliver his message through the media or plot backroom deals now that he has been acquitted of charges of violating the Political Fund Control Law?
I think a high-ranking government official was right in predicting that Ozawa will become more radical than before.
Under a likely scenario, Ozawa would first try to regain his privileges as a DPJ member and then build support for someone he backs--possibly himself--toward the DPJ leadership election in September.
Ozawa might bolt the DPJ and form a new party with his followers under the banner of opposing the consumption tax hike.
In 1993, Ozawa, who lost in a power struggle in the LDP, left the party and created Shinseito (Japan Renewal Party). He partnered with Morihiro Hosokawa, chief of the Japan New Party who was calling for a “break from old politics.”
Ozawa helped oust the LDP from power and install Hosokawa as prime minister of a non-LDP coalition government.
Ozawa enlists someone isolated from the political establishment when the odds are stacked against him in the Nagatacho political world.
This is another rule about Ozawa, and it points to the possibility that he will team up with Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto, an outspoken critic of established political parties.
But it will not be easy for Ozawa to make his next move.
LDP elders, who fell in line with Ozawa in dismantling Kan, will unlikely help him scrap the proposed consumption tax hike.
Ozawa’s maneuvering will be blocked if Noda makes concessions to LDP President Sadakazu Tanigaki and agrees to amend the consumption tax hike bill.
Hashimoto, at 42, still has a lot of time available as a politician. He has no incentive for becoming a figurehead carried by Ozawa.
Above all, voters are more critical than ever before of a power struggle that is not based on political ideals.
Under these circumstances, how will Ozawa, who turns 70 on May 24, find his way out? His last battle continues.
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