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Japan's Ozawa forms party with fellow rebels

Publication Date : 12-07-2012


Veteran politician Ichiro Ozawa has set up a new party comprising fellow rebels from the ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) to wage what could well be his last political battle.

The 49-member party bears the unwieldy name of 'The People's Livelihood is Number One', which Ozawa announced somewhat sheepishly at a press conference yesterday.

He said: "This was the slogan that the DPJ used in the 2009 elections to win over voters. The DPJ has, however, reneged on the promises that brought it to power."

The announcement had to compete with news the same day of the death of a newborn baby giant panda, which sparked grief throughout Japan. Newscasters interrupted regular programming to report the cub's death.

Ozawa is expected to use his party to challenge Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's tax policies, including a proposal to double the sales tax.

By splitting the DPJ, the new party has reduced PM Noda's majority in the Lower House but is otherwise powerless on its own.

Ozawa's best bet is to link up with other parties in the next general election, which must be held by July next year.

He has tried to court popular Osaka mayor Toru Hashimoto, whose party plans to field up to 300 candidates.

On Tuesday, Hashimoto, who has been cool to Ozawa's overtures, sent him a subtle message by praising PM Noda. The mayor told reporters: "Mr Noda is fantastic. He is steadily implementing what he had promised."

Political analyst Atsuo Ito said: "Hashimoto wants to tell Ozawa he will not tie up with him. At the same time, Hashimoto is leaving open the option of joining Noda if there is a realignment of political parties after the next elections."

Tokyo governor Shintaro Ishihara, 79, said to be planning to form his own political party, has poor regard for Ozawa, who turned 70 last month.

When Ozawa left the DPJ last week, the outspoken Ishihara said he had chosen "the road to ruin".

"I think people are smart enough not to expect anything from Mr Ozawa's party," he said.

One recent survey found that only 11 per cent of voters harboured any hopes for the party.

Ozawa was once seen as a political reformer but his latest move is viewed with scepticism.

Voters are reminded that Ozawa's new party is his fourth.

Since 1993, when he led an exodus from the then ruling Liberal Democratic Party, Ozawa has had a reputation for repeatedly creating political parties and triggering their demise.


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