Democratic Party of Japan kingpin Ichiro Ozawa has been at the center of politics for decades and earned a not-so-pleasant reputation as a backroom fixer who skillfully maneuvers politics in turbulent times.
Ozawa was DPJ president before stepping down in spring 2009 over a funds scandal. He was replaced by Hatoyama, who went on to become prime minister last September.
He then bowed out in early June as DPJ secretary general, again over a funds scandal. At the same time, Hatoyama also exited amid a money scandal, as well as over the Futenma base dispute. Naoto Kan replaced him.
Ozawa, 68, who served as Liberal Democratic Party secretary general from 1989 to 1991 and left the party in 1993, has often been viewed as a “crasher” because he has a history of breaking up and forming various political groups.
He played a major role in establishing a short-lived non-LDP coalition government led by the now-defunct Japan New Party in August 1993, and forming the now-defunct New Frontier Party in 1994 with the aim of seizing power.
In July 2003, Ozawa decided to merge his small party with the opposition DPJ, and was elected president in 2006. After the opposition parties gained a majority in the Upper House in 2007, he sought to form a grand coalition with the then-ruling LDP but failed due to opposition within his own party.
Ozawa stepped down from the top party post in May 2009 after his state-paid secretary was arrested and indicted over dubious political contributions from a general contractor.
But as acting DPJ leader in charge of elections, he maneuvered the party to victory in the August 2009 Lower House election and brought about a change of government.
Ozawa’s decision to challenge Kan in the party presidential race comes at a time when an independent judicial panel is reviewing the numerous decisions by prosecutors not to indict him over the funding scandal involving his ex-aides.
Ozawa has often made controversial remarks. He caused a stir early last year when he said the U.S. Navy 7th Fleet, forward deployed to Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, would suffice as the U.S. military presence in the “Far East.”
He also called Americans simple-minded in a speech late last month.
A native of Iwate Prefecture, he is currently serving his 14th term as a Lower House member.
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