On Wednesday, DPJ bigwig Ichiro Ozawa criticized party leader and Prime Minister Naoto Kan for his leadership in handling the triple disasters facing Japan from about a month ago. In doing so, Ozawa once more shows the nature of politics in Japan where factionalism and boosting personal power bases are a reality for many political bigwigs. Despite the seriousness of the ongoing crisis, Ozawa obviously feels it is an opportunistic time to lambast the leader of the ruling party.
Instead of heeding the calls by Kan that now is a time of national unity, it appears that Ozawa cares little little about national unity or being loyal to the party to which he belongs. Instead, he is dreaming of being the future leader of Japan. It is, for him, a time to jump on the bandwagon and blame Kan for ills which do not belong to the current prime minister of Japan.
After all, Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) had a close relationship with the government of Japan under various Liberal Democratic Party governments. With this knowledge, and the reality that Ozawa was once the former secretary-general of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), then maybe he is suffering from memory loss.
In truth, Ozawa is an enigmatic political leader in Japan and this applies to his energy, creativity, strong-mindedness and other positive factors. However, he is also self-destructive and a destroyer and clearly he is not being loyal during a time of great trauma for Japan.
Ozawa has been called a “shadow shogun” because of his influence which is very strong within the DPJ. However, in recent times, a political fund scandal has eroded his influence and image but true to his nature, Ozawa refuses to be “put out to pasture.”
Therefore, the current crisis may be seen to be a time of opportunism for the “shadow shogun” because it appears that principles and politics do not go hand in hand with many powerful politicians. Also, the factionalism which is destroying the body politic in Japan is once more rearing itself. This applies to recent comments made by Ozawa toward his own political leader and is further evidence of Ozawa sinking into the pits of contempt and political shenanigans.
Ozawa lambasted Kan not from sincerity but because of his desire for political office and if he destroys what he helped to create, then this will not concern him. He attacked his own party leader and implied that the leadership of Kan is inept. How can Ozawa say this with a straight face, when he had ample time during his LDP days to demand safety procedures or raise serious issues related to TEPCO?
Ozawa stated, “The irresponsible way the cabinet is dealing (with the disasters), with Prime Minister Naoto Kan himself not exercising leadership, could lead to further disasters.” He also stated that “I strongly accept the crushing defeat as the public serving notice to the Kan administration” and this applies to recent local elections which were held in Japan. Ozawa added that the “disaster-hit victims are greatly anxious about whether (the government) can restore their lives and the state of their hometowns.”
In 2009, the DPJ broke the stranglehold of LDP rule which had virtually led Japan since the end of World War II. It was meant to usher in a new political dawn but Ozawa belongs to the old political ways of the LDP and members who jumped ship from the LDP to the DPJ share those old ways. Since coming to power, the DPJ has been unable to break the faction-based politics in Japan and until this problem is tackled, respect for politicians will remain minimal. These latest comments by Ozawa are further evidence of that.
Ozawa was first elected to the Diet of Japan in 1969 and he remained within the LDP until the early 1990s. Then he left the LDP because of opportunism and because he was close to Shin Kanemaru who wielded strong power. However, once Kanemaru was embroiled in a corruption scandal in 1992, Ozawa decided to “jump ship” in 1993 along with Tsutomu Hata. This created instability within the LDP and it ended their 38-year dominance of political government. The splinter party under Hata and Ozawa was called the Japan Renewal Party.
However, the Japan Socialist Party was upset by Ozawa’s foreign policy comments and they joined a coalition with the LDP. After this debacle, the great creator and destroyer then entered the fray within the New Frontier Party which had been created in 1994 by Toshiki Kaifu.
The confusing nature of Japanese politics meant that after the New Frontier Party began to destroy itself from within, Ozawa once more helped to create the Liberal Party. He even floated the notion of rejoining the LDP after forming a coalition with the LDP and Keizo Obuchi was thinking deeply about this.
Yet Hiromu Nonaka, Junichiro Koizumi, Taku Yamasaki, Koichi Kato and other important political figures would not entertain the return of Ozawa irrespective of whether a coalition occurred or not. Once the door had been shut on Ozawa within the LDP, he then moved his party and joined the DPJ in 2003. He soon rose quickly because he was elected to be the head of this political organization and he soon brushed off the pension scandal which emerged in 2004.
However, other scandals emerged, such as the fund-raising probe, and it is difficult for Ozawa to distance himself from them. Despite this, he still dreams of being the leader of Japan and his disloyalty is clear for all to see because his political career is about self-interest and self-promotion.
It is time for the DPJ to become a proper political party which is based on being loyal to DPJ principles. Ozawa should not belong to the future of the DPJ and factionalism needs to end.
Kan and members who are true to the DPJ should either force Ozawa out or limit his enormous power base within the DPJ. If not, then either he will seek to obtain power by undermining the current leader of the DPJ or he will drag the DPJ down.© Modern Tokyo Times