Democratic Party of Japan kingpin Ichiro Ozawa may run in the ruling party’s presidential election next month, sources said Thursday.
The intraparty group led by former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama held a seminar in Karuizawa, Nagano Prefecture. Ozawa, known for being critical of how the government is run by current DPJ President and Prime Minister Naoto Kan, joined the seminar, adding to the factional maneuvering within the party ahead of the Sept. 14 election.
Ozawa asked the seminar’s participants to “join forces and try to live up to the people’s expectations.” But he didn’t mention the DPJ election or his possible candidacy.
Ozawa, a former DPJ secretary general who stepped down in June along with Hatoyama over separate money scandals, will make his decision as early as next week on whether to file his candidacy for the party presidential poll, according to the sources.
“It is important for us to return to our original intent and open the way to the future by giving up self-interests in the name of party unity,” Hatoyama said at the opening of the seminar, attended by some 100 DPJ lawmakers, including both the Hatoyama group and those close to Ozawa.
Hatoyama has expressed his intention to support Kan, but indicated his re-election as DPJ chief must not come in a way that would leave any conflict within the party.
While Kan is so far the only declared candidate for the election, campaigning for which will start Sept. 1, there is growing speculation that some factions could attempt to block his re-election.
The focus is on whether Ozawa will run for election himself or field a rival candidate from his own group, the biggest within the party, or through cooperation with other factions.
Ozawa has criticized Kan for considering dropping some of the DPJ’s pledges that helped the party take power in last year’s general election by citing the country’s tight budgetary conditions, the sources said. Hatoyama and Ozawa were heading the party when it scored the historic victory in the Lower House election.
But there remains uncertainty over whether Ozawa, a former DPJ president, could return to the helm of the party, given stiff opposition from anti-Ozawa factions arguing that he should keep quiet after the funding scandal involving his former secretaries.
An independent judicial panel has called for resuming the investigation by prosecutors into whether Ozawa should be held responsible for fund-reporting irregularities.
“As the party’s secretary general, I shouldn’t comment on who will run in the race and who won’t,” DPJ Secretary General Yukio Edano said in Fukui. “Also, I have no idea who is gathering” in the Hatoyama group seminar in Karuizawa.
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