Sunday Project features four policy wonks, Nobuteru Ishihara (LDP), Yukio Edano (DPJ), Yosuke Takagi (New Komeito), and Akira Koike (Japan Communist Party), to sock it out, right after the Plenary sessions, just before the Diet committees begin their work. Other things being equal, Mr. Edano would be running circles around Mr. Ishihara. Unfortunately for the DPJ, Mr. Edano is one of the most anti-Ozawa politicians in Japan, never mind the DPJ, and it shows. He makes it clear that he disagrees with Ichiro Ozawa on the Japanese anti-terror operations in and around Afghanistan, and the most he is willing to do is to explain Mr. Ozawa's position on Japanese presence in Afghanistan. In doing so he splits a legal hair by pointing out that Mr. Ozawa has stated that he wishes to have Japan participate in ISAF operations when he assumes power, but has not said he actually will.
That sounds very much like damning with faint praise. But it was nothing compared to Mr. Edano's act when the talks came around to political financing.
Now Prime Minister Fukuda has been having money issues of his own. His office has had to reacquire and resubmit approximately a hundred receipts that it altered inappropriately, and forced to return political donations from a construction company that relied heavily on public works contracts and a company in which foreigners (in this particular embarrassing case, North Koreans) held a majority stake. However, before it gets interesting, host of the show Soichiro Tawara, the cruelest septuagenarian this side of Uncle Scrooge, whips out a panel, which, together with further explanations, reveals:
When Mr. Ozawa's Liberal Party was dissolved and merged into the DPJ in 2003, the LP donated 1.3 billion yen to the Kaikaku Kokumin Kaigi (Reformatory People's Conference; yes, I know, but it sounds awkward in Japanese too), a political organization over which Mr. Ozawa had substantial control. The money included 0.56 billion yen of the political funds given to the LP under the Political Party Assistance Act. Moreover, just two days before the LP was dissolved, DPJ gave 0.3 billion yen, just like that.
This matter first came out on 2 February 2005, when Katsutoshi Matsuoka (yes, the MAFF Minister who committed suicide as allegations of irregularities and possible criminal acts piled up) raised it in the House of Representatives Budget Committee. The Kaikaku Kokumin Kaigi appears to be doing nothing particular these days, other than to sit on a pile of cash.
Mr. Edano is furious to learn this, because he was the DPJ Policy Research Council Chairman at the time but was not told anything at the time about the 0.3 billion yen gift to the soon-to-be-disbanded Liberal Party. In fact, he appears to be claiming that this is the first time he's heard about the Kaikaku Kokumin Kaigi itself. He says repeatedly that the DPJ has no right to attack the Fukuda administration on political financing issues unless it gives a satisfactory explanation, and vows to get to the bottom of the matter. And it is on that note this particular segment of the program ends. (The JCP, the only party that has elected to decline the public money, makes the more general point that unused public money should be returned to public coffers, but is understandably ignored by the other parties.)
Mr. Ozawa is in many ways old-school LDP, more so, actually, than any of the Tokyo-native, second-, third-, fourth-generation, neotenous contenders in the LDP. And this is, in fact, the second money issue that has been raised against him this year, and the other one also involved a large amount of loose money. The renewed accusations, though there appears to be nothing illegal about them, are strong incentives to make himself even scarcer in the Diet - he has been as elusive as Kim Jong Il during the Plenary sessions – and in the public eye; not exactly the kind of leadership that is conducive to a DPJ that is struggling to distance itself from the LDP without looking irresponsible while papering over significant internal policy differences and personality clashes.
(note) The precise facts and figures cited by Mr. Matsuoka were:
(24 September 2003)
DPJ gives LP 295,540,000 yen.
(26 September 2003; day of the DPJ-LDP merger)
LP gives Kaikaku Kokumin Kaigi 745,899,041 yen.
LP gives Kaikaku Kokumin Kaigi 560,964,143 yen in public funds that it has received under the Political Party Assistance Act.