Thursday, January 01, 2009

Ichiro Ozawa: Blessing and Curse

If I remember correctly, I already made own my case why the DPJ is failing to win, even as the LDP-New Komeito coalition is losing. I won’t bore you with the details, but it all boils down to having a gifted but flawed old-school politician presiding over a fractious party whose unity hangs on the desire to topple the ruling coalition. As politically ineffectual as the Aso administration has been in the face of the economic crisis, the DPJ leadership has been less than exemplary with its effort to portray itself as an attractive alternative.

Just how old school is Ozawa though? The headline item for the hardcopy Yomiuri on a slow news day of a December 31: Nishimatsu Construction Suspected of Illegal [Political] Contributions/478 Million Yen/Political Associations as Fence. Nishimatsu Construction, a mid-tier construction company whose shares are publicly traded on the Tokyo Stock Exchange First Division, is under investigation by the Tokyo Prosecutor’s Agency for illegally funneling money to politicians through its employees by way of two dummy political associations. According to the Yomiuri report, six Diet members received 26 million Yen between 2004-2006. The biggest beneficiary during this period? Ichiro Ozawa by a mile, receiving 14 million; Koji Omi and former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori finishing distant second and third, with 4 million and 3 million respectively. Although the LDP will for obvious reasons not go there in a big way, the media will surely exercise less restraint, and some of the harshest criticism of Ozawa’s way with money has come from within DPJ ranks. Even as Ozawa works his electoral magic on the party faithful, his shadow casts a pall over efforts to portray the DPJ as the agent of change.

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