Tokyo Notes

Damage Limitation

DPJ kingpin Ichiro Ozawa’s grip on the ruling party may not be quite as vice-like as it used to be.

The decision not to sack the deputy of ruling party General Secretary Ichiro Ozawa exposes the fault lines within the party as well as Ozawa’s weakening grip on the Democratic Party of Japan.

Yukio Ubukata said last week that Ozawa should resign if he was unable to convince the public of his innocence in one of the money-and-politics scandals dogging the DPJ. Infuriated senior party execs decided Thursday that after this remark Ubukata had to go. But they must have been exasperated when Ubukata refused to go quietly and instead repeated his sentiments the following day.

According to the Kyodo News Agency, Ubukata described his impending dismissal as ‘truly ridiculous.’

‘If the party tries to handle such a situation by sacking anyone who denounces the leadership, it does nothing to help revamp the party,’ he reportedly said.

Ubukata’s implication that freedom of expression was being suppressed within the DPJ evidently struck a chord, because yesterday afternoon, he was asked to stay on. This must have surprised readers of the conservative press in Japan, who are told on a daily basis that Ozawa has ‘dictatorial’ control of the DPJ.