DPJ secretary general wants Ozawa’s membership reinstated

Kyodo

Ichiro Ozawa’s Democratic Party of Japan membership should be reinstated because the kingpin and former DPJ leader was acquitted last month of falsifying his political funds reports, Azuma Koshiishi, the No. 2 man in the ruling DPJ, demanded Monday.

DPJ executives will probably agree with Secretary General Koshiishi during their meeting Tuesday even though some party members still want Ozawa to not be reinvited back to the fold until his trial verdict becomes final.

Koshiishi has been seeking Ozawa’s reinstatement since the DPJ powerbroker’s acquittal by the Tokyo District Court on April 26, and he made a similar pitch to party executives Monday.

Ozawa, who heads the DPJ’s largest faction and is credited with the party’s rise to power in 2009, would be expected to make a serious effort to undermine Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s bid to double the 5 percent consumption tax if his party membership suspension is lifted.

Noda, the current DPJ president, wants the tax hike bill passed during the current Diet session through June, but Ozawa and his allies liken the move to reneging on the party’s no-tax-hike pledge made in the run-up to the 2009 general election.

The DPJ wants to decide Ozawa’s fate before Wednesday, when the lawyers who served as prosecutors when they tried the party don must decide whether to appeal his acquittal. An appeal might bolster calls against reinstating his membership.

The DPJ lacks clear-cut rules on lifting a membership suspension, so it’s up to the discretion of the party leaders, the members said.

In February last year, the DPJ, under then leader Naoto Kan, formally suspended Ozawa’s membership because he was indicted the previous month over the political funds scandal.