Democratic Party of Japan Secretary General Ichiro Ozawa may be off the hook, for now, from the Tokyo Prosecutor’s Office, but the fate of the leadership of the ruling party, especially scandal-weary Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, is looking ever more unhealthy.
Ozawa and Hatoyama face increasing opposition within their own party. There are several DPJ groups directly questioning Ozawa’s honesty and leadership, and indirectly, the Prime Minister's judgment.
In the spirit of true political gamesmanship, Hatoyama appears this week to have reached out to his critics. Two weeks ago, we noted a group of outspoken DPJ members calling for Ozawa to “fulfill his accountability.” Led by former Deputy Speaker of the Lower House Kozo Watanabe, they are referred to as the Seven Magistrates. Six of the members of this anti-Ozawa group met after the annual DPJ Convention (Shinji Tarutoko did not attend) on January 16 to voice their concerns over the Hatoyama-Ozawa tag-team.
English-language sources are scant on this powerhouse of senior party members, which takes its name from the Seven Magistrates of the old LDP Takeshita Faction, prominent in the 1980s. Both Ozawa and Watanabe were members. Watanabe coined the term for his group critical of Ozawa formed following Ozawa’s 2006 re-election to the DPJ Presidency. Watanabe’s group ramped up its anti-Ozawa rhetoric during the scandal last year that ousted Ozawa from the DPJ presidency.
The DPJ Seven share common members and goals with the conservative Ryoun-kai Faction. Yukio Edano and Yoshito Sengoku belong to both groups and Ryoun-kai head Seiji Maehara joined Edano in his criticism of Ozawa for the recent land purchase scandal. Ryoun-kai is the next largest faction in the DPJ. Ozawa’s, the Isshin-kai, is the largest. The DPJ Seven with membership of the Ryoun-kai Faction are:
- Kozo Watanabe, Fmr. Lower House Vice-Speaker
- Katsuya Okada, Foreign Minister
- Yoshihiko Noda, Senior Vice Foreign Minister
- Koichiro Gemba, Lower House Finance Committee Chairman
- Yukio Edano, (Ryoun) Fmr. DPJ Policy Research Committee Chairman
- Yoshito Sengoku (Ryoun) State Minister for National Policy
- Shinji Tarutoko, Lower House Environment Committee Chairman
A table (Japanese only) of Ryoun-kai members’ views on security and historical issues taken from a 2006 Mainichi survey can be found here – the topic for a future blog post.
Former DPJ Policy Research Committee Chairman Edano, one of the most vocal against Ozawa and the leader of Ryoun-kai sister group Kasei-kai, was promoted on Wednesday to Minister of the Government Revitalization Unit. This is either a move by Hatoyama to distance himself from Ozawa or to simply to co-opt and silence an opponent. Edano’s predecessor, Sengoku, took a more cautious tone against Ozawa following the DPJ Convention.
Hatoyama is walking a fine line in maintaining the DPJ by balancing pro- and anti-Ozawa groups. Although Sunday’s Mainichi magazine rumored that Hatoyama might purge anti-Ozawa forces from the Cabinet in April, it also noted that “ruthless” Hatoyama could get rid of Ozawa if approval ratings further plummeted. One litmus test for the Cabinet’s future will be the February 21 Nagasaki gubernatorial election.
This week, Tarotoku has been making the rounds of policy officials and experts. He was invited to Washington as the guest of the think tank CNAS, which was founded by now-Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell.
It looks like everyone on both sides of the Pacific is hedging his bets.
Michael DavidsonAPP Visiting Fellow
Mindy KotlerAPP Director