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Is Ozawa heading for the slammer?

By Henry Hilton

Rule No. 1 in Japanese politics is to admit that the whole thing is played out behind closed doors. Joe Public is invariably the last guy to be told what might be going on until the deals have been done, the hankos are on the documents and all the details properly sorted out.

The murky news on Democratic Party of Japan Secretary General Ichiro Ozawa suggests that he is going to have an increasingly hard time wriggling his way out of the present political crisis. Japan's leading political kingmaker is in big trouble and will need loads of skill, experience and extra-large dollops of luck to avoid getting off the hook on this occasion.

Assuming that the prosecutors have their evidence, it is surely an odds-on bet that Ozawa will be forced to resign his seat in the Diet. No doubt his colleagues will have mixed feelings about this probability since Ozawa ran the DPJ's successful election campaign last summer and many newcomers are beholden to him for having made it to parliament. Yet the longer the "scandal" rumbles on, the more the public's views on their government will work against the party and impact directly on the forthcoming Upper House election results.

Ozawa may well try, of course, to save his skin but party bigwigs must surely by now have reckoned that this old-style approach isn't going to wash. The days when his then seniors in the Liberal Democratic Party could offer a tearful apology, explain that were unfortunate "misunderstandings" and blame the entire on some poor secretary who had agreed in advance to take the rap are over for good.

The Democrats are going to have to let Ozawa go or face a backlash that will cost them dearly. You can not, pretty obviously, claim to be the antithesis of the LDP and then follow their ancient manual on how to survive a money "scandal". If Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama's slogan of putting people before concrete has any substance to it, his party will simply have to give their controller his marching orders, take a deep breath and attempt to regroup as quickly as possible. Present issues surrounding Ozawa that are said to involve land transactions and donations from outsiders could hardly be more damaging to the DPJ's bid to distance itself from the ancient regime.

What might happen to Ozawa after that is pure speculation but it is unlikely that he can expect anything as gentlemanly as a mere slap across the knuckles from the prosecutors. He may, of course, prove to be as resilient as ever and hope yet to make a comeback after he takes any punishment that may be coming his way.

The man once famously described as the Richard Nixon of Japanese politics certainly cannot be written off just yet but it increasingly looks like Ozawa's days at the heart of the contemporary scene are at an end. Whether, though, a cleaner, more transparent system will emerge even slowly to replace the old ways remains doubtful.

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in an ideal world yes, in this one no

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One can only hope.

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It will depend maybe on the amount of other dirty deals that he has done that are exposed. Japanese people I talk to about this are sure that there are many such deals. Surely he has to at least resign this week

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I wish.

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Sadly the anwser is probably no. But he should be!

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Minshuto should move forward and fire the entire top three levels of the prosecutors office and the NPA, then order the new heads to start a new investigation, going all the way back to the Lockheed scandal. I'm sure the bureaucrats have collected information on all key political leaders over the years, so let's air it out for everyone to see.

Uncover all of Jimento's cash flows, make it public, and dry them up so if the LDP ever returns to power, it won't have nearly the warchest it has depended on for the last 50 years.

It will be good for all political parties: blackmail is only possible if the victim pays. Free the information, and the bureaucrats will lose their last levers on power. Summarily firing the top three levels will give younger managers at the NPA and prosecutor's office a chance to shine and remove any possibility of amakudari.

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Japan’s leading political kingmaker is in big trouble and will need loads of skill, experience and extra-large dollops of luck to avoid getting off the hook on this occasion.

Avoid getting off the hook? Doesn't he want to be off the hook? Take another look at this, JT.

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kingmaker? Don't you mean "Kingpin?"

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Ozawa should at least step down, if not taken to court.

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While old Ichiro is definitely not Mother Theresa, this whole scandal has more than a slit whiff of being a political witch-hunt, with Ozawa and his reformist-minded allies on one hand, and the LDP/bureaucratic elite on the other. Proof of this lies in the fact at when Osawa's name initially came up (when Aso was still in power), there were also 3 or 4 LDP "persons of interest" for the prosecutors to mull over. Low and behold, however, these names did not make the final cut.

Anyway, the fallout of this little tiff is going to be a destabilization of the government, as policy work grinds to a halt while both sides trade barbs. Unfortunately, it is just this sort of policy indecision that Japan can ill afford.

Once this whole episode runs its course, if Ozawa manages to avoid a trial (prison is a long way off considering the Japanese legal system), payback will be massive. First of all, the current crop of senior prosecutors will be shown the door (retirement to nice cushy jobs), and a new regime will be installed. Secondly, these new prosecutors will suddenly get some information on where some of the LDP skeletons are (courtesy of Ozawa). Then things should get really interesting.

Finally, the big loser in all of this is the Japanese bureaucracy. Setting the prosecutors onto a politician for purposes of political gain sets a very dangerous precedent.

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Mr Toad needs to step down.

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in a first-world country, definitely...in japan, sadly, no

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I will be entirely stunned if this 'shadow shogun' sees time on the inside -- I agree with others, there are too many strings tied to this guy that will get pulled, and he will avoid any serious repercussions.

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Timorborder, your post is excellent.

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bobbafett, your opinion is excellent.

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Future Prediction

The worm with the business suit & baggy eyes needs to go, but go with a smile. Without Ozawa, Hatoyama will not last one year. I see another election on the rise. Squabbles over some small property in Iwate. What a idiot savante !!!!!

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Those lowest of the low bureaucratic toilet grut monkeys...This dog is the king of the dogs, the big cheese obviously. This dog just will not win! The people of Japan want to put him in his place, they have completely had it with this complete pile of garbage that plagues them!

Remove those bad seeds from power! This is an asolute must! There's no other way! As long as those dingle berries are in there lol you will not get of this disease God help ya

Clean out the house---this is just needed no questions asked!

This Ozawa chan needs to take a real hike and get lost. Japan needs to say sayonara to this complete mother!

Yes he will go sayonara in due time don't worry, this filthy shady rat just can't last. Once they find the skeletons in his closet, well guess what lol he is toast! This is just starting, so things will come on him real hard! And Crime Minister Hayotama--sure yet another momma's boy butmunch we can do without just like ahole san the previous

This will be an interesting year of politics you all! And you think the recent Massachusetts election was just another episode of oh my god people we really need to something badly, because this aint working at all routine lol

This doggie can bark good but guess what dude reality will bite him! It's too late for this tool, he has lost all due respect and the world has definitely threw him out!

Time we have somebody with a real brain and morals this time Time for a revolution Japan! Time we finally say enough is enough of this bull! Gotta get out of this Hades folks!

Its time you Japanese realize these lowlife idiots are making your lives a living heck and its time you stand up and overcome this very illness of yours that will do you in if you don't do anything! If it has to take the jaws of life to do it, then my good God just do it then! "Break down this wall" We must get out of hell for real! Wakatta ka?

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Even if he resigns he will just change titles and continue to run the party and the PM from behind the scenes...anyone who thinks this will change Japans' politics (or even thinks there is a remote possibility that Japan's politics will change) is a fool. Japanese people are ultimately is fine with the corruption because it would be impolite and troublesome to try and fix it. They bitch and then vote the same class of crooks every time. They get what they deserve, and will get the likes of Ozawa or his like in the LDP for the next 100 years.

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wow that's gloomy, we can't let these guys bring us down...we just can't...it's not hopeless we must fight...obviously you saying its the Japanese who are to blame and its their mess they have to deal with and fix

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So OK you are saying its the Japanese fault, and I agree with you there. They created their own disaster. And only they can determine their fate. DO NOT SAY HOPELESS, hate that word!

And if you're saying Ozawa san represents most Japanese I very strongly disagree with you on that one brother!!! And to say the Japanese want these low life morons and the rest of the rat pack is wrong and you are totally saying this from a total gaijin standpoint!

The Japanese are the ones who are gonna have to really fix this and find their way out of this, I trust that they will, it may take time but they will! If they have to learn it the hard way OK that's fine...but I will never say there's no hope and just give up wtf man! That's foolish!!

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Ozawa is the Secretary General of the DPJ and Hatoyama is the Prime Minister is the same Party and the two work well together and remember they get their strength from the peace-loving people of Japan - calling the less of what they are shows you attacking this pair from an untoward manner. Frankly, I feel they doing a good job especially when they ignore the sniping. You don't go to jail because you look like a toad!

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I have to agree with Timborder's (excellent) post to some degree. This indeed seems like an LDP-engineered witch hunt, although it’s hard to ignore three of Ozawa’s top secretaries getting arrested for illegal fund activities, while Ozawa proclaims ignorance, all on the tail of another of his top secretaries being arrest and convicted of money irregularities last year, forcing him to resign as head of the DJP. It’s just odd how so many around him are willing to break the law and subsequently go to jail to help Ozawa secure greater power, and yet he remains so innocently unaware.

Still, slap the word "reform" on any message we like, but Ozawa is a two-faced, manipulative little worm. He’s a politician, with a lower-case “p,” of the worst kind. My issue with him hasn't been because of these recurring money scandals, but rather because he essentially hoodwinked the Japanese electorate by becoming Prime Minister in circumvention of the will of the electorate.

Do recall that he resigned in May 2009 as head of the DJP in order to give it a better chance at winning the general election in light of overwhelming negative public opinion against him due largely to -- wait for it! – a money scandal. Once the DJP won, he miraculously landed a position back in his old roost as the “Always Ready with a Complaint, but Never Primed with Solutions” leader of the DJP again, and for all intents and purposed now makes domestic and foreign policy decisions as Prime Minister -- decisions, mind you, that the public didn’t sign up for, like expanding Japanese international roles (in what way is pointedly unclear) and sending SDF troops into Afghanistan.

Oh, sure, his name isn't on the door, and it's not printed on any cards as such, but it's not difficult for anyone to see Ozawa is indeed PM and that Hatoyama dances to whatever tune is played. In usurping the authority of PM, there can be no grosser perversion of the democratic process. Unless of course, you're the LDP.

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drtoro, give me a reason to think it's not hopeless....the most radical change in Japanese politics in decades has only given us crooks who are less competent than the last batch.

When young people I know say "Why bother to vote, they're all the same, and all the real action happens behind closed doors anyway", I have very little to respond with, because they are right. The Old Boys of the status quo (regardless of the party) have such strong machines on the ground, and the Japanese are so loathe to go against authority and peer pressure that change is effectively impossible. The political and societal cultures here coopt, weaken, sideline and ultimately defeat any attempt at real change before it starts.

Enjoy Japan as it is, but don't expect it to change. Or expect the change to be glacial and only skin deep.

Whether Ozawa goes to jail or not, Japan will be run exactly the way it has been for at least the last 55 years, and largely by the same families. Get used to it.

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I still don't think it's hopeless

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it's called a 100% revolution, and the Japanese are creating their own hell obvious now...you're kind of like comparing Japan to North Korea--I disagree you there too and to call it hopeless wtf man...Nothing's impossible here dude! We cannot let this bull rule our lives.

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No, it's not North Korea, (you said that, not me)...the lifestyle and freedoms here are still going to be better than 90% of the world even if the economy and politics don't change.

Hopeless to me does not mean that Japan is doomed to be a horrible place to live or anything, just that the politics and govt corruption here are unlikely to improve anytime soon. Japan's potential will never be realized, which is sad.

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Yes it is sad...the politics and the corruption will have to change eventually, that's what I hope

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I'm just tired of all the gloom and doom and want a better Japan and a better world seriously

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Is Ozawa heading for the slammer?

No, there will be some convenient fall-guy secretaries to do the hard time, while Ichiro Ozawa gets a fine and a suspended sentence for much lesser offenses than what he really committed.

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