The notoriously brilliant backroom negotiator who have been instrumental for the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP)’s temporary ouster from power after decades of dominance in the early 1990s and who was, just months ago, seen as the next Prime Minister of Japan, has finally ended his political career. With tears in his eyes, Mr. Ozawa yesterday announced his intention to resign as president of the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) “in order to save his party’s reputation and to realize his goal of wrestling power from the LDP.”
“We definitely need to secure victory (in the election). . . . Forming solidarity is indispensable for that purpose,” he said. “If I’m posing any problem for that goal, that’s not what I want to do.”
His resignation comes weeks after his chief aide was arrested for accepting donations from a scandal-tainted construction company. Ozawa himself maintained his innocence, but members of the DPJ, which Ozawa had led to a resounding election victory in 2007 that made it the second largest party in Japan, have demanded his resignation.
As expected, DPJ members lauded Ozawa’s resignation, claiming, rightly, that it will boost the DPJ’s chances of winning the next elections, which Prime Minister Taro Aso hinted might be held as early as July. The DPJ’s support rating have been skyrocketing since Shinzo Abe’s blunders, but the Ozawa-related scandal, coupled with the Aso government’s (over)reaction to the North Korean missile threat, have changed the party’s fortunes. In a recent survey by the Yomiuri Shimbun, only 20 per cent of the respondents say they favor Ozawa becoming prime minister while 40 per cent favored Aso.
It would now seem that Aso’s biggest mistake is his failure to call for elections earlier, when Ozawa was still stubbornly refusing to resign. He could have used the lack of DPJ solidarity, Ozawa’s declining approval rating and his image of a traditional political opportunist (he was a political turn-coat who changed party affiliations almost as often as he changed his undershirt during the 1990s) along with recent LDP gains (especially from the North Korean nuclear crisis) to win the elections and maintain LDP’s five-decade dominance.
But now, Aso has lost his chance. With Ozawa gone, the DPJ could now claim to be the ”change Japan needs” a la Obama. All he has to do now is hope that his policies would pay off good results in time for the next general elections.