Koshiishi still siding with Ozawa

by Natsuko Fukue

Staff Writer

Azuma Koshiishi, the new secretary general of the Democratic Party of Japan, said he still believes Ichiro Ozawa’s suspension should be lifted.

“I have been claiming that no punishment is needed. I haven’t changed my mind,” Koshiishi, 75, told the Japan Times and other media organizations in a group interview at the ruling party’s headquarters in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo.

“But under democratic rule, everyone participates to reach an agreement. So if all (members) think the suspension should be imposed, then we should follow that. If necessary, we can discuss and consider reviewing” the punishment, he said.

He also said that party will discuss the issue only when the timing is right because it is not an urgent matter.

Koshiishi is a close ally of Ozawa, the former DPJ leader who will soon go on trial over alleged misrepresentation of political funds reports involving a Tokyo land purchase.

Koshiishi also chairs the party’s Upper House caucus, making him the first Upper House member in DPJ history to be chosen as secretary general, the party’s No. 2 position.

A rival of former Prime Minister Naoto Kan, Ozawa still maintains influence over members of his own faction, which is the largest in the party. The appointment of Koshiishi to the powerful position by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has been seen as part of an effort to patch a rift between Ozawa loyalists and opponents that is damaging the party.

During the interview, Koshiishi called on the opposition parties to cooperate in passing this year’s third supplemental budget. The package is aimed at paying for reconstruction of the disaster-hit Tohoku region.

“We have no time to lose in passing the third extra budget. . . . I hope the opposition parties will join discussions on urgent matters,” he said.

A native of Yamanashi Prefecture, Koshiishi was an elementary school teacher for 26 years before being elected to the Lower House in 1990. He has deep ties with Nikkyoso, the left-leaning national federation of teachers unions.

Koshiishi was previously a member of the Social Democratic Party of Japan, which was supported by Nikkyoso and later changed its name to the Social Democratic Party.