05/12/2009, 00.00
JAPAN
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Opposition party embroiled in scandal, fears impact on election

Opposition leader Ichiro Ozawa resigned yesterday as a result of a scandal involving his secretary over alleged illegal campaign financing. No clear frontrunner has emerged in the succession race. Lower house elections are scheduled for next September.
Tokyo (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The successor of Ichiro Ozawa, leader of the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), will be picked in the next few days. The DPJ is Japan’s main opposition and holds a majority in the upper house of the Japanese Diet.

Ozawa quit over a financial scandal involving one of his closest aides, something which has jeopardised his party’s chances at winning in the upcoming election.

Everything began in March when Ozawa’s secretary, Takanori Okubo, was arrested for falsely reporting 35 million yen (8,000) in donations from Nishimatsu Construction Co. in violation of the law on party campaign funding.

As part of their investigation police raided Ozawa’s office. And the now ex DPJ leader tried to hold out, accusing prosecutors of being politically motivated. However, given the rapid decline in public trust in him, he resigned yesterday so as not to threaten his party’s chances in next September’s lower house elections.

The DPJ executive met today and DPJ lawmaker Hirohisa Fujii announced that the party will choose a new leader on 16 May. 12, 09

Former DPJ leader Katsuya Okada (seen as honest but incapable of holding together the party’s many factions) is a possible candidate to succeed Ozawa. DPJ Secretary-General Yukio Hatoyama and senior party member Naoto Kan are also considered possible candidates.

None of them disagree on the basic points of the party platform. All agreed that the party must focus on the needs of average people and workers rather than companies, cut red tape, strengthen social services and stimulate internal demand to counter the current recession.

Many experts point out however that Ozawa’s resignation came too late and that the scandal has given new life and credibility to the Liberal Democratic Party of Prime Minister Taro Aso who saw public support for his government plummet in recent months as a result of the deep economic crisis.

By contrast, the DPJ had benefited from a widespread desire in the country for change.

Japan’s economy has been in a major slump and experienced steady decline for some time.

Voters have also become somewhat cynical, seeing parties vie more for power than solutions to jumpstart the economy.

Significantly Osawa’s resignation did not affect Japan’s financial markets, more concerned about the government’s anti-recession measures than party politics.

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