Ozawa set to be DPJ secretary general

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Yukio Hatoyama, leader of the Democratic Party of Japan and prime minister in waiting, told reporters Thursday he will appoint DPJ acting President Ichiro Ozawa as secretary general, the No. 2 post of the party that now holds an overwhelming majority in the Lower House.

The appointment is expected to further strengthen Ozawa’s clout within the party.

Ozawa,67, headed the DPJ’s election campaign for Sunday’s House of Representatives poll in which the party won more than 300 of the 480 seats in the lower chamber, allowing the DPJ to elect Hatoyama as prime minister in a joint Diet vote scheduled for Sept. 16.

“Yes, that’s right,” Hatoyama told reporters Thursday night at the party’s headquarters in Tokyo when asked if he will ask Ozawa to be secretary general.

Ozawa will once more be tasked with heading the party’s campaign for the Upper House election next summer, as the DPJ will try to win a majority in the chamber so it can smoothly enact bills sponsored by the party.

Meanwhile, many observers and DPJ members have expressed concern over Ozawa’s growing power within the party, as dozens of fresh DPJ lawmakers are expected to join an intraparty group called Isshin-kai that Ozawa heads.

Ozawa is known as a master of behind the scenes politics, and his leadership often created a dual-power structure in the groups he belonged to in the past.

Internal rows over his leadership led to the breakup of major opposition force Shinshinto in 1997.

Before Ozawa joined the DPJ in 2003, a number of his close aides had left him because of his dictatorial style of leadership.

During an interview with NHK on Sunday, Ozawa tried to brush aside concerns over his growing power within the DPJ, trying to portray concerns as mere speculation by reporters.

Ozawa, a former executive Liberal Democratic Party member, disbanded his own Liberal Party and joined the DPJ in 2003, pledging to follow a consensual approach and work closely and cooperate with other party members.

In a group interview on Monday, Hatoyama indicated he would appoint Ozawa, Naoto Kan, another acting president, and incumbent Secretary General Katsuya Okada to important posts in the party leadership or the Cabinet.

Ozawa had been DPJ president until May, when his top aide’s arrest and indictment in connection with illicit donations from Nishimatsu Construction Corp. force him to step down.