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Wherever the wily Ozawa goes, party soon to follow

by Reiji Yoshida

Staff Writer

Is he a phoenix or just a zombie politician from a minor party?

Ichiro Ozawa, the veteran lawmaker who bolted from the Democratic Party of Japan while it still ruled the roost, has launched another — his sixth — new party and formally became its president Friday.

Seikatsu no To (People’s Life Party), whose core members are from the now defunct Kokumin no Seikatsu ga Daiichi (People’s Life First), which also was formed by Ozawa, has only seven Lower House and eight Upper House members.

Nippon Mirai no To (Tomorrow Party of Japan), which was centered on members from Kokumin no Seikatsu ga Daiichi, lost 52 seats in the Lower House election in December.

“I wondered if I should take the post of president. . . . We have lost many of our (lawmakers) through the election,” Ozawa said in his inauguration speech at a party convention in Tokyo. “I have strongly felt my responsibility.”

After the election, Ozawa’s followers formed Seikatsu no To while Shiga Gov. Yukiko Kada resigned as president of Nippon Mirai.

Kada quit after Ozawa’s minions rejected her proposal to appoint a Lower House member as a party copresident and instead argued Ozawa should take the post.

In his speech Friday, Ozawa criticized the new Liberal Democratic Party-led government, claiming Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is trying to revise the Constitution and expand the overseas role of the Self-Defense Forces.

“It’s impossible to solve international disputes by using military power,” Ozawa said.

Party members adopted a platform calling for scrapping the planned increases in the sales tax, abolishing all nuclear power plants by 2020 and handing out an annual cash allowance of ¥312,000 for child-raising households.

Ozawa has been nicknamed the “destroyer” for his record of eventually splitting up most of the parties to which he has belonged, including the LDP, Shinshinto (New Frontier Party), the Liberal Party, the DPJ and Nippon Mirai.

In his speech, Ozawa pointed out that the size of his party is now as small as that of the Liberal Party. That party was absorbed by the DPJ.

“I’m determined to once again build up a government” based on Seikatsu no To, he said.