Monday, March 23, 2009

One Poisonous Fish

Will Ichiro Ozawa survive? Why not? His only enemies are Japan's establishment and the United States. If you want to win an election in today's Japan, both seem like good adversaries to have.

Not unexpectedly, revelations of bribes, I mean illegal political donations, from Nishimatsu Construction are popping up on all sorts of prominent LDP members. The focus seems to be on Prime Minister Aso's cabinet. Gosh, how did that happen? Who knew?

Some investigators are even finding possible illegal contributions from more established construction firms to promient politicans. Interestingly, both parties are treating the subject gingerly in the Diet. More challenging has been Ozawa's declaration that he will push again for legislation to end political contributions from companies and institutions. He, he says, has learned his lesson.

Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Iwao Uruma, former head of the National Police Agency, is said to have told the media, on condition of anonymity, that the Nishimatsu probe wouldn't spill over to the LDP. He did not stay anonymous for long. As Mr. Ozawa observed, "If this is true, I find it a bit odd."

Odd indeed. Ozawa has resources and grit. Going after him can be very dangerous indeed. He is not new to this game and he is determined to win.

Tomorrow, he is supposed to announce whether the scandel affected his abilities to govern enough to cause him to step down a DPJ party chief. I doubt that very much.

Already the voices within his party for him to resign are letting up and many see no harm in his remaining if he is not further implicated in the fundraising scheme. Although 60% of the Japanese people polled recently in a Yomiuri were disappointed in the DPJ, 58% still see the party as capable of running the country. A Mainichi poll found 67% of respondents distrustful of the LDP.

Best yet, on Friday, the Tokyo Public Prosecutors Office said it would likely forgo calling Ozawa in for questioning. They currently do not feel that they can connect the DPJ president to the procurement of illegal donations.

Unable to discredit or throw Ozawa in jail, the LDP is back on track for September elections. Their next move is likely to use their time wisely by creating a "third party" that can hopefully defuse some of the DPJ's popularity and ensure a coalition government.

For now, Ozawa is one poisonous, dangerous fish to touch.

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