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Democratic Party of Japan kingpin Ichiro Ozawa was acquitted last week of conspiring to file false financial reports for his political group. He can now return full-time to the job he was elected to do, but the sense you get from the mainstream media is that he’s through as a politician. The press has always acted as if he were guilty of the charges, and much of the commentary in the wake of the verdict has centered on the poor quality of the prosecution’s tactics and the fact that the law protects politicians in these matters by not making them responsible for their aides’ wrongdoing — which makes sense, since politicians passed the law in the first place.

The public feels the same way the media does. According to a Kyodo News survey, 76 percent of respondents said they “don’t expect anything” of Ozawa. The only reason the media is forced to pay such slavish attention is because he still wields power within the ruling DPJ. Though the style of money-politics Ozawa practices is already a relic, it holds sway among a subset of lawmakers who have been conditioned to follow whichever leader makes their careers easier. Factional politics will not vanish overnight with Ozawa’s eclipse, but he’s definitely the last of his kind.

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