Thursday, April 30, 2009

Ozawa Digs in, Complicating the DPJ’s Road to Victory

I had believed for some time that it was more likely than not that Ichiro Ozawa would bow out gracefully before the Lower House election. After all, the only DPJ Diet members speaking up for him were his diehard followers. Even faithful sidekick Yukio Hatoyama had been talking more like a captain going down with his ship than one who intended to bring it back to harbor. But I had forgotten what a contrarian Ozawa had always been; he’s the little boy who’ll do exactly the opposite of what you tell him to do. Now, the odds are surely better than even that he’ll do his damndest to stay the course. And what’s the reason for changing my mind? Because the DPJ put off the public opinion poll that the media had led the public to believe would—channeling Jason Todd—determine Ozawa’s fate.

The poll had already been postponed before in the wake of the indictment of Ozawa’s political aide in the Nishimatsu scandal—reasonable under the circumstances. Ozawa’s explanation this time around was essentially that all the media attention made a reliable poll all but impossible. Unfortunately for him, this all but guarantees that the media’s focus will pounce on the poll with increased fervor once the DPJ actually gets around to doing it. Trust me, someone in the DPJ is going to once again leak the event. Most important for the political game, it will help the LDP cast the Lower House election as a referendum on Ozawa.

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