After weeks of speculation, political titan Ichiro Ozawa has made the daring move to stand in the leadership contest for the Democratic Party of Japan.
As the party has a majority in the lower house, the winner of the DPJ presidential election will almost certainly become (or continue as) Japan’s prime minister.
Ozawa told reporters of his dramatic decision after meeting with former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama this morning. While Ozawa’s attendance at a meeting of Hatoyama supporters last week suggested the possibility of Hatoyama switching support from Prime Minister Naoto Kan to Ozawa, Hatoyama had insisted he would stick with Kan until this morning’s sudden development. Without the boost of Hatoyama’s support, it was difficult to see how the man known as the ‘shadow shogun’ could stand in a party election. He was almost certain to lose; especially with all the big intraparty groups apart from his own saying they would back Kan.
So now the party faces a potentially devastating election that could make it or break it as Ozawa shows he has no intention of letting his influence wane any further, whatever the cost. A final chance to become prime minister, a position he has never held, is also no doubt another factor in his decision.
The official campaign starts on September 1 with the election on September 14.
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