Ichirō Ozawa got that nickname “こわしや” a long time ago, and I still remember him saying there was no way he could work with the Japanese Socialist Party, whom he was supposed to be in a coalition with, back in 1993, when a guy called Hosokawa (now a potter) led a historic non-LDP government for about half a year. The Socialists were shortly after visited by a beezebub from the LDP who whispered in leader Murayama’s ear asking how he’d like to be Prime Minister. The subsequent LDP-Socialist coalition got back power from the first successful attempt to break the LDP’s monopoly on power since the war, and the now completely discredited Socialist party dwindled away to their current irrelevance. Since leaving the LDP years ago Ozawa has been involved in the formation, and breakup, of numerous parties – hence his nickname.
He’s actually a rather conservative polititian with a somewhat nationalistic attitude to foreign policy – this is what caused the fallout with the Socialists. Even today he’s well to the right in the generally progressive Democratic Party of Japan, and a lot of people resent the power he weilds. Add to this that he’s under a cloud over some suspicious land dealings that he claims to be innocent in. Few people believe him and he is not popular at all in the country in general, compared with Prime Minister Kan who seems to have more popular support, if anything, than his DPJ party.
So what’s Ozawa up to, standing against Kan in the upcoming DPJ leadership election? If he won, the DPJ would almost certainly fall further in the opinion polls and quite possibly lose to the LDP in the next election. Unfortunately he still has a lot of support in the party behind the scenes, among the more conservative members. While poor at speaking in public he’s a brilliant “old school” politician who thrives in meetings and grass-roots work, and a lot of new DPJ Diet members, the “Ozawa children” owe their seats to him and will probably vote for him.
Moreover, rumour has it he wouldn’t care too much if his election as leader led to the breakup of the DPJ, because he’d be able to go on to form a coalition with fed-up LDP members with political views more to his taste.
The Wrecker strikes again.