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The decision by Ichiro Ozawa, former Democratic Party of Japan secretary general, to run in the party’s leadership race in September took people by surprise Thursday, with many criticizing his alleged political funding infraction and others expressing hope for stronger leadership.

“It’s not appropriate (that Ozawa is running for the DPJ leadership) because the controversy over his funding problems isn’t over yet,” said Yoshiaki Seshimo, 56, of Toda, Saitama Prefecture.

On former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama’s support for Ozawa, Seshimo said: “I wonder what the two of them were thinking when they resigned together (in early June). Everything is so contradictory.”

Hatoyama and Ozawa stepped down amid separate money scandals and, for Hatoyama, the fiasco over the relocation of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Okinawa.

Akira Kameyama, 72, a part-time worker in Tokyo, expressed anger. “Mr. Hatoyama said earlier he would support Prime Minister Naoto Kan, but now he is backing Mr. Ozawa. He is dithering again.”

In Nagoya, a 42-year-old male office worker, said, “I don’t understand what Mr. Ozawa intends to do after becoming prime minister. He probably just wants to maintain his political clout.”

On the other hand, Kohei Yamada, 76, a consulting agent in Osaka, said Ozawa’s assumption of the prime ministership “could lift the economy out of the doldrums.”

“I want to see a person with political prowess step up to the plate, and that might send a can-do signal abroad,” he added.

Meanwhile, discomfort over Ozawa’s bid was seen among DPJ members and supporters, who questioned whether the party could afford another bout of infighting at this critical juncture.

Kazuji Suzuki, 77, a DPJ supporter in Kushiro, Hokkaido, said, “It’s regrettable the party leadership is being contested less than a year after the DPJ won power.

“I’m worried that people might take a dim view (of Ozawa’s bid) and it might present a good opportunity for opposition parties,” Suzuki said.

Others, however, hailed Ozawa’s decision to contest the party leadership.

Shunji Sakaki, 61, a DPJ member in Wakayama Prefecture, said he is backing Ozawa because the party managed to take power thanks to his influence.

Toshio Yoshimura, 61, secretary general of the DPJ’s Fukuoka prefectural branch, said, “It’s better (for Ozawa) to run and make sure whether DPJ members approve of his policies instead of appointing a proxy for the party leadership race.”

In Ozawa’s home district, Kyoko Moriyama, 63, of Oshu, Iwate Prefecture, said, “I expect Mr. Ozawa to exert his powerful leadership and stand by his beliefs.”

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