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Former Democratic Party of Japan leader Ichiro Ozawa said he expects the Lower House to be dissolved as early as in March, party members said.

“The critical point will be in March,” Ozawa, under indictment for alleged violation of the Political Funds Control Law, said during a meeting with party officials in Kagoshima on Wednesday evening. The remark is likely to cause a stir as Prime Minister Naoto Kan, his rival and party leader, is struggling with a divided Diet and mounting speculation over a general election.

Kan has repeatedly said he has no plans to dissolve the Lower House, which the ruling DPJ dominates, and has stressed he will put all his efforts into enacting the fiscal 2011 budget. But the opposition camp, which controls the Upper House and whose support he needs to pass key bills, remains uncooperative.

According to the party members, Ozawa said at the meeting that the DPJ will be in a bind if the fiscal 2011 budget and related bills are not passed because the child-rearing allowance will expire.

Ozawa, the DPJ kingpin who is credited with helping the party to power in 2009, said he believes New Komeito, the second-largest opposition party, is “serious” about battling the DPJ, which has been trying to lure it to its camp to avoid gridlock in the divided Diet.

Ozawa was quoted by the party members as saying New Komeito feels confident of its position even if a Lower House poll were to coincide with nationwide local elections in April.

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