Do “Ozawa supporters insist the scandal was cooked up as a last-ditch attempt by the old order to protect itself”?
Yes. But note that there is a difference between such accusations—coming most prominently from Ozawa’s faithful if not completely trusted deputy Yukio Hatoyama—and Ozawa’s more modest claims aimed at the Public Prosecutors Office. The first implies a vast conspiracy theory that is at odds with my understanding of the PPO’s role and intentions (about which I have blogged recently), which happens to be consonant to a great degree with Ozawa’s. The difference here is that my conclusions are based on a few testimonies and some observation while Ozawa’s determination appears to be rooted in painful experience. Specifically, the PPO took down his two mentors, Kakuei Tanaka and Shin Kanemaru, two of the most powerful men in the LDP at the time, for taking funny money (Tanaka died while appealing his more serious bribery conviction), and the construction industry relationship that he inherited from the two has come to roost for him.
Note also that an embarrassing (for me, probably not for most of you) number of Administrative Vice-Ministers (a neat criminological double entendre here) have received criminal sentences and gone to jail to jail over the years, as have a much greater number of lesser government officials.
It’s hard to doubt from these and any number of political scandals that have ended up in criminal cases that, like it or not, the PPO pursues its own agenda at a minimum largely independent of the administration and the rest of the bureaucracy. Ozawa’s claims, circumspect in scope, indicate that he understands that only too well.
You may still prefer to subscribe to the view that this is “a last-ditch attempt by the old order to protect itself” and deny that this is “proof that he suffers from the corruption and cronyism that has long poisoned Tokyo politics.” Now Ozawa’s supporters may say that and many of them may actually believe it and it may be true (though I think not), but is it one or the other? Are they the only opinions in play? And don’t Ozawa’s own expressed views figure into this, since this is, after all, an issue in which he has a personal interest and about which he has spoken up himself?