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Mr. Ichiro Ozawa, who has been in political hot water since the March 3 arrest of his chief aide over alleged political donations irregularities, announced his resignation Monday as leader of the Democratic Party of Japan. Considering the strong call for his resignation to help restore party unity and smooth the way for Japan’s political schedule, including the Diet deliberations on the fiscal 2009 supplementary budget, Monday was probably the last good opportunity for him to use his resignation announcement in a politically effective way.

Had he continued to remain as head of the No. 1 opposition party, the party could have suffered a weakening schism and lost further support from the people. Some DPJ Diet members, especially those whose election machines in their constituencies are weak, had been calling for his resignation.

In announcing his resignation, Mr. Ozawa said that he decided to resign so that the DPJ could establish and strengthen party unity and be able to win the coming Lower House Election. He emphasized that his resignation is aimed to ultimately bring about a change of government and help parliamentary democracy firmly take root in Japan.

Mr. Ozawa has been critical of the timing of the arrest of his aide by the special investigation squad of Tokyo district public prosecutors. The arrest, which was over the alleged receipt of ¥35 million in political donations from Nishimatsu Construction Co., has apparently weakened the DPJ’s chance to win the coming Lower House election. But it was wise of him to accept, even if he did so in a roundabout way, that he had become a liability for the DPJ. At Monday’s news conference, he said that since he had become the target of media criticism, it would be better for him to resign so that party members can be free from anxiety and able to strengthen the party unity.

Mr. Ozawa’s resignation may buoy support for the DPJ at least temporarily. But the party must elect a new leader in a transparent manner. The new leader must have strong leadership to realize the political goals of Mr. Ozawa, including the ability to explain the DPJ’s policies to the people and present a vision of future Japan in a convincing and appealing manner.

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