Under pressure to leave DPJ, Ozawa agrees to testify over scandal -- with conditions
Ichiro Ozawa, former secretary-general and a political kingpin of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), has finally agreed to testify to a Diet ethics committee over a political funding scandal after mounting pressure to leave the party if he didn't, but he has shrewdly taken advantage of the situation to seek removal of a political opponent.
On Dec. 27, Prime Minister Naoto Kan made it clear that the DPJ would ask Ozawa to leave the party if he refused to appear before the ethics committee. Kan's statement forced Ozawa, who is facing indictment as early as the beginning of next year over the scandal, to move towards testifying.
However, Ozawa took the opportunity to make a counter-attack, demanding that Kan dismiss Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku as a precondition for Ozawa's appearing at the committee. Kan has been under pressure from opposition parties to sack Sengoku after the opposition-controlled House of Councillors adopted a censure motion against the chief cabinet secretary.
The move by Ozawa takes advantage of indications by the prime minister that he would reshuffle his Cabinet -- even though that reshuffling was intended to accompany the addition of the Sunrise Party to a DPJ-led coalition administration, a deal which fell through.
On the afternoon of Dec. 28, just before making the announcement that he would testify at the committee, Ozawa visited former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama and stressed the need to sack Sengoku.
"For the Diet, the censure motion against Sengoku is the more serious problem, so the prime minister should respond properly to it," Ozawa was quoted as saying to Hatoyama, who agreed with him.
Ozawa and Hatoyama, both outside of the mainstream of the party, agreed that they will demand that the prime minister replace Sengoku with a pro-Ozawa legislator, saying it will be for the benefit of party unity.
Azuma Koshiishi, head of the DPJ's caucus in the House of Councillors and close ally of Ozawa, is in step with the two. "If the prime minister wants to restore public trust in his administration, he should reshuffle the Cabinet," he told reporters.
A point of contention is the timing of the testimony. Ozawa says he will only attend the ethics council if it is convened after the regular Diet session opens in January -- in other words, after Kan has made the decision of whether to sack Sengoku.
Kan, however, fearing that if he complied it would give the public the impression that he had bowed to pressure from Ozawa, strongly demanded on Dec. 28 that Ozawa attend the ethics council before the next Diet session convenes.
On the night of Dec. 28, pro-Ozawa legislators, including Koshiishi, former Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Koji Matsui, and former DPJ Diet Affairs Committee Chairman Shinji Tarutoko met in Tokyo and were reportedly in agreement on using Ozawa's testimony to the ethics council as a bargaining chip to demand a reshuffling of the Cabinet. (By Takashi Sudo, Political News Department)
毎日新聞 2010年12月29日 9時17分