Japan’s Secret Shogun

With the post-general election honeymoon over, the Japanese public has become increasingly aware that Ichiro Ozawa, Secretary-General of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan, is the puppet-master of Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama’s cabinet. Ozawa's role underscores how much the DPJ has in common with its predecessor in government, the Liberal Democratic Party.

OSAKA – With the post-general election honeymoon over, the Japanese public has become increasingly aware that Ichiro Ozawa, Secretary-General of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), is the puppet-master behind Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama’s cabinet.

Although he distances himself from formal policy-making within the executive branch, Ozawa in fact masterminds the entire legislative process, including the budget and appropriations. He has centralized the DPJ’s contacts with lobbyists at his office in the Diet (Parliament). He also exercises a total grip over the allocation of the DPJ’s state subsidy to individual DPJ legislators. Alas, Hatoyama controls only the narrow field of policy.

Ozawa’s political style is that of his mentor, former Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka (1972-1974), who became the longtime boss of the biggest faction of the former ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) after his resignation following bribery charges. Together with other factions, Tanaka commanded a majority within the LDP and remained the party’s kingmaker and string-puller in successive LDP governments, perfecting the LDP’s quasi-social-democratic combination of export-led growth and pork-barrel wealth redistribution. Recently, Ozawa had a visit that he made to Tanaka’s tombstone televised, thereby holding himself up to the public as Tanaka’s heir.

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