Tokyo - On 26 April, the Tokyo Court acquitted Ichiro Ozawa (69 years), chairman of the Democratic Party of Japan, of his Rikuzan-kai political group's alleged involvement in the 2004 purchase of land for the construction of a dormitory: the group had received 400 million yen from Ozawa from his political funds without stating the amount and origin as required by law. The documents were falsified.
In January last year, the prosecutor
had indicted Ozawa seeking a sentence of three years in prison. Ozawa
(pictured) pleaded not guilty. Previously three secretaries had been given
suspended prison sentences.
The popularity of Ozawa was put in evidence the day of the trial by a crowd of 1800 people who queued to get one of the 46 seats in the gallery for the public. Outside the court there were dozens of supporters carrying posters with pictures of the politician and the word "innocent".
The personality of Ozawa
No-one, allies or enemies, doubts Ozawa's political ability: throughout the nearly 70 years of his life, he has spent 43 of them in the Diet (parliament).
Born in Tokyo in 1942, he attended two excellent universities: Keio University and Nihon University, an institution, the latter, that has had several people who later became presidents of renowned Japanese firms among its pupils.
In 1969, following the death of his father, Saeki, a self-made businessman and MP in the ranks of the Liberal Party, Osawa inherited his political position. Since then his rise has been without interruption.
In 1985 the then Prime Minister
Yasuhiro Nakasone appointed him foreign minister and then, in 1989, impressed
by his skills of persuasion even towards members of the opposition, offered him
the post of secretary general of the LDP (Liberal Democratic Party) , then the
majority party in government.
In the early '90s, Ozawa was already considered by the media as one of the main political forces of the coalition government, but in 1993, in a move that has surprised many, he separated from the LDP and, after a period of transition in minor parties, joined the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), of which he soon reached the top as general secretary, first, and then as president.
In 2009 the 'LDP after 50 years of dominance in the leadership of the country, was forced to concede the government to a coalition dominated by the DPJ (Democratic Party of Japan). Ozawa's ability to persuade, who Japanese analysts call the "shadow shogun", seems to have been a determining factor in the shift of the government.
He, although of conservative tendencies, does not shy from taking liberal or nationalist positions, if the political situation so requires. So in August of 1997 he was anti-US when he said that the U.S. war in Afghanistan had nothing to do with the United Nations and the international community, but in October the same year in an article written about Sekai, a left-wing journal, he said that if he won power, he would deploy departments of the National Self Defense (Japan) to Afghanistan as part of UN forces to the assistance of international security, in contradiction with Article 9 of the Constitution which states that "the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes", and for this purpose "never keep forces (armed) of land, sea, air or other war potential. "
uni-lateralnationalism led him to take on anti-Christian sentiments. In
November 2009, during a visit to the President of the Japan's Buddhist
Federation, he said that "Christianity is a exclusivist religion that
tends to justify itself " and that "American and European companies
are bogged down because of Christianity."
The accusation of 2010 that led him in the dock, could have restrained, if not stopped, his political rise. On the contrary, it seems to have been regarded as just a hiccup. Despite having ledt the party out of respect, it seems that he is preparing a new springboard to regain the ascendancy.
Interviewed shortly after the verdict in his favor,he said: "The decision (of the court) today is in line with what I said at that time, namely that I have not conspired with my secretaries to make false statements," and added: "I wish to honor the court for acting in a practical and honest way and express my gratitude to my friends (in the party) and all the people of Japan for supporting me so far"
Political influence of the court decision.
Theoretically, the three lawyers who have served as a prosecutor may
appeal against the acquittal, within ten days. But according to the Yomiuri
newspaper are unlikely to do so: they have worked more than 800 hours for this trial,
each action has also been carefully considered. The appeal would require their
However, even if at the level of criminal law, the case can be closed down, at the political level, however, it seems to have started a new story that could undermine political stability in Japan, namely, the political battle between Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, who is also president of the DPJ and Ichiro Ozawa and acquitted, a colossus in the domestic policy and international strategy. Noda is promoting a bill to increase to 10% of consumption tax that will soon be submitted to the Diet (parliament) for approval. Without this increase, the government would not have enough money to support Social Security. Osawa is strongly opposed to this increase.
It is true that Osawa has left the party after the legal charges, but it is also true that, now, he can easily return. The same secretary of the DPJ has indicated the possibility. This would result in the weakening of the government and because everyone knows that Ozawa has always aimed for the post of prime minister. The acquittal of the court has removed the boulder which hindered his rise.