Democratic Party of Japan President Ichiro Ozawa's tough image as a stubborn opposition leader was diluted Wednesday by his apology and formal reversal of his decision to step down, and by his admission of weakness.
Ozawa has had a history of heart problems.
His decision to stay at the helm is expected to quell the DPJ’s internal strife for now, but the bizarre event has had a negative impact on the party at a time when the opposition is preparing to capitalize on a rare but realistic chance of edging the LDP-led ruling bloc should a general election be called.
Ozawa said that despite the opposition’s decisive victory in the Upper House election in July, in which the ruling bloc lost its control of the chamber, a Lower House election would be much more challenging.
He also said he wants to avoid a situation in which the DPJ is unable to make progress on its most popular policies in the Diet, where the LDP-New Komeito bloc controls the Lower House.
The divided Diet has not passed a single bill this session.
Although the DPJ has ruled out a grand coalition with the LDP-New Komeito bloc, some DPJ executives said they are willing to discuss policy in some areas, such as support for victims of natural disasters.
But Ozawa confirmed that his party will continue to oppose the special antiterrorism bill authorizing Japan to resume the Maritime Self-Defense Force’s refueling mission in the Indian Ocean that is being deliberated in the Lower House.
Upon hearing the news of Ozawa’s decision to stay with the DPJ, Prime Minister Fukuda told reporters he was relieved the whole fiasco is calming down. Fukuda added that he would continue negotiating with Ozawa and the DPJ over various policies, including the MSDF bill.