DPJ gropes to keep Ozawa at party helm

Exit looms over grand coalition snub


Democratic Party of Japan executives in a hastily arranged huddle Monday tried to persuade Ichiro Ozawa to remain DPJ president despite the widespread assumption that he will not reverse his intention to step down.

Later the same day, DPJ Secretary General Yukio Hatoyama met with Ozawa and urged him to reconsider. Ozawa responded that he couldn’t give an immediate answer as he had submitted his letter of resignation only the day before, according to Hatoyama.

Ozawa’s sudden offer to resign has rocked political circles and the DPJ. Though former DPJ Presidents Katsuya Okada and Naoto Kan have been floated as possible successors, the executives said Monday they will try to persuade Ozawa to remain as chief.

At the same time they reiterated their goal of winning a Lower House election without resorting to forming a grand coalition with the Liberal Democratic Party-New Komeito ruling bloc, as Ozawa had indicated to his party last week.

“We confirmed that we will unite and work harder to get elected to power (at the next Lower House election), and to do that, we want Ozawa to continue leading the way,” Hatoyama said after the party executive meeting at DPJ headquarters in Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward.

Despite refusing to join the ruling bloc, the DPJ will pursue more positive policy talks with the LDP, Hatoyama said.

On Friday, DPJ executives rejected out of hand the proposal to join the LDP-New Komeito ruling bloc conveyed to them by Ozawa, who started his career in the LDP.

Ozawa then expressed his intention to step down, saying the snub by his colleagues was tantamount to a no-confidence motion against him.

According to Hatoyama, however, Ozawa told DPJ leader Naoto Kan in a meeting earlier in the day that he was not necessarily wedded to the idea of joining the LDP-led coalition.

Kan reported to the executives that Ozawa was more concerned about the tough challenge that lies ahead for the DPJ to defeat the LDP in the next Lower House election, according to Hatoyama.

“(Ozawa said that) because the LDP is also desperate (to remain in power), it is not easy to win a majority under the (DPJ’s) current conditions,” Hatoyama said, quoting Kan in the executive meeting.

Ozawa told Kan he thought that allying with the ruling bloc and working together would be a way to achieve the DPJ’s policy goals, after the party won a landslide in the July Upper House election, saying this was the faster track to power, according to Hatoyama.

“Kan told Ozawa that all DPJ members will fight with all their might to win, and they seek Ozawa’s continued leadership,” Hatoyama said.

“I believe that the message was conveyed.”