DPJ split by Ozawa decision to stay put

Many in party critical of leader, seek his quick exit

Kyodo News

The Democratic Party of Japan was in turmoil Wednesday after DPJ President Ichiro Ozawa announced the previous evening he will stay on despite his top aide’s indictment over illegal corporate donations.

Takanori Okubo, 47, was indicted Tuesday for falsifying Ozawa’s political funds reports from 2003 to 2006, allegedly taking ¥35 million in donations from Nishimatsu Construction Co. that were funneled through two political bodies.

Investigative sources said Wednesday that Okubo has changed his account since his indictment and has basically owned up to taking illegal donations from Nishimatsu in violation of the Political Funds Control Law.

Despite the decision by party executives to stand by Ozawa ahead of a Lower House general election that must be held by fall, many in the ranks voiced criticism of the DPJ leader and those who supported him.

DPJ Lower House member Yoko Komiyama said a quick exit by Ozawa would be best for the party in terms of the election.

DPJ Upper House member Renho also questioned the decision of party leaders during a meeting of the DPJ’s Upper House caucus Wednesday morning.

“We need to hear an explanation of why party executives endorsed Ozawa’s continued leadership,” she said.

After the meeting, she told reporters the DPJ executives must fully disclose what they discussed Tuesday in deciding to retain Ozawa so the public can be assured of his legitimacy to stay on.

Some party heavyweights joined the rank and file in calling for more information.

Former DPJ policy chief Yukio Edano blasted both Ozawa and the prosecutors who charged Okubo, saying most of the public is still unclear about the donation probe.

Tetsuro Fukuyama, the current deputy policy chief, urged the party “to think of what the DPJ must do to win the upcoming poll and effect a change of government,” though he added that he supports the decision to keep Ozawa in place.

Party executives such as DPJ Secretary General Yukio Hatoyama and Deputy Chief Naoto Kan have scurried to ensure that party members stay unified and back Ozawa as their leader from early on.

The indictment against Okubo alleges that Rikuzankai, Ozawa’s political fund management body, of which Okubo is chief accountant, accepted ¥35 million in illicit donations from Nishimatsu.

Corporations are prohibited by law from contributing to individual politicians.

The money was reportedly donated to Rikuzankai and the DPJ’s No. 4 chapter in Iwate Prefecture through what prosecutors claim were two dummy bodies of Nishimatsu between 2003 and 2006.