Cabinet ministers from the ruling Democratic Party of Japan voiced concern Friday about former DPJ Secretary General Ichiro Ozawa’s possible entry in the Sept. 14 DPJ presidential race.
Although many have thrown their support behind Prime Minister Naoto Kan, the current DPJ president, in his re-election bid, some defended Ozawa, an ex-party leader considered the kingpin.
“I feel uncomfortable with someone who could suddenly be indicted becoming party leader and prime minister,” Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada told reporters.
Ozawa may face mandatory indictment if a public review panel concludes for the second time that a conspiracy between him and his former aides is “strongly suspected” over a political fund scandal and that he therefore merits charges.
Because of the party’s comfortable majority in the House of Representatives, whoever becomes DPJ president would also be the prime minister.
Renho, state minister for government revitalization, said she feels voters chose a new government in last year’s general election in the hope that political funds scandals would become a thing of the The DPJ ousted the long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party in the poll last August.
Justice Minister Keiko Chiba indicated Ozawa has yet to give a full accounting of the scandal over the misreporting in his fund management body, Rikuzankai, saying, “I am concerned about whether the public has sufficiently accepted (the explanations over) the issue of politics and money.”
In contrast, Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Kazuhiro Haraguchi raised questions about moves within the DPJ to exclude Ozawa, emphasizing the importance of party unity.
“If we engage in factional strife or exclude a particular person, we will meet the same fate as the LDP,” Haraguchi said.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku indicated it is desirable for the upcoming race to see multiple candidates, saying victory through voting will give legitimacy to the winner.
The party leadership race comes after the DPJ’s disastrous performance in the July 11 House of Councilors election, in which the ruling bloc it heads lost its majority in the chamber.
But if Kan, who has been in office since early June, loses the race, this would mean there would be three DPJ prime ministers in the span of a year.
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