Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Power behind The Throne - the DPJ and Ichiro Ozawa

On August 30, the Asian political world was rocked by the unexpected landslide
electoral victory of the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ).

Many observers worldwide were concerned about the DPJ's ability to
either form a cabinet or govern - it lacked ties to the all-powerful bureaucracy,
it had few connections to Japan's corporate and financial elites, and its
ranks were swollen with political newcomers.

Of its 308 deputies in the Lower House of the Diet, fully-two-thirds had
never held electoral office before. In many nations, this would be a recipe
for continuing instability. But not in Japan.

Instead, the DPJ has rolled out a credible, experienced cabinet in
double-quick time - to 71% public approval, according to Asahi Shimbun.
Moreover, the cabinet appears to have the right blend of experienced hands and
eager newcomers.

The credit for this auspicious start can be given to the DPJ's
Secretary-General - Japan's legendary "Shadow Shogun",
Ichiro Ozawa.

In American terms, Ozawa could best be described as Richard Nixon,
Lyndon Johnson, and Dick Cheney all rolled into one.

A 42- year veteran of Japanese electoral politics, Mr. Ozawa first
gained notoriety as the "enforcer" for LDP Prime Minister
Kakeui Tanaka in the late 60' and early 70's.

A devoted student of Niccolo Machiavelli - about whom he wrote a book -
he quickly realized that real power could most effectively be wielded
behind the scenes in Japan's unique one-party government. With a
passion for intrigue and a talent for both cultivating friends and
punishing enemies, Ozawa quickly rose in the LDP ranks.

But, as Machiavelli points out, when you make powerful friends,
you also make powerful enemies. And many senior LDP grandees
resented having to go hat in hand to the much-younger Mr. Ozawa
for this favor or that.

But Ozawa wasn't worried. Realizing that while it is pleasant to
be loved, it is more useful to be feared, he quietly increased
his power and influence while remaining out of the limelight.

But it all came to a head in the early 1990's, when the
leaders of the LDP decided to rid themselves of Ozawa
once and for all. The bursting of Japan's economic "bubble"
and continuing government paralysis meant that a scapegoat
had to be found - and the LDP decided to set Ozawa up as
the fall guy.

But they underestimated him. In a dramatic display of factional
discipline, Ozawa promptly led his followers out of the LDP altogether
to the tiny New Freedom Party, causing the LDP to fall from power
for the first time since 1955. But Ozawa's triumph was short-lived.

Without contacts and broad-based public support, The New Freedom
Party quickly folded. And sweeping back to power, The LDP promptly
rewrote the electoral rules to prevent such challenges again.

But Ozawa was unfazed,. In 1996, operating in the shadows
as usual, he helped get the fledgling DPJ off the ground. And, staying
behind the scenes, he declined formal office in the DPJ except for
short stints as general secretary during the campaigns of 2005 and 2008,
when the DPJ gained control of the Diet's Upper House.

But on August 30, Ozawa's sixteen-year campaign finally bore the results
he had been waiting for. A broadly-based DPJ swept to power, reflecting
public disgust with the LDP's "pork and influence-peddling as usual"

And Ozawa is firmly in command of the show this time. As DPJ
Secretary-General, he is in charge of raising and disbursing funds,
vetting cadidates for office, and along with Prime Minister Hatoyama,
making the final decisions on policy.

Plus, his experience is invaluable in mentoring a new generation of elected
officials. Ozawa will make sure that the new DPJ deputies get all the right
connections and meet all the right people. And with 140 personally-loyal
DPJ deputies in the Lower House (almost all of whom he personally groomed
and selected), he commands the largest political following of his career.

But the biggest reason for Ichiro Ozawa's success and endurance in power
isn't his belief in Machiavelli - it's his belief that elections should matter.
It's his belief that political parties need to present clear, well-defined policy
choices to an electorate. And, it's also his belief that new blood and new ideas
are essential for both political and national progress.

If Japan goes on to develop an enduring two-party system of government,
which to The Thinking Nationalist is the hallmark of political maturity,
it will owe a huge debt to the "Shadow Shogun".


  1. Ichiro Ozawa sounds like a great man. He seems to be steely and have alot of guts. Maybe he can teach the Democrats over here that Sunshine, Rainbows, and lolipops do not make political success. Maybe Ozawa will help remove the Republican Sand from the engine of the Democratic Party. Then laugh at us for turning our backs on the Almighty Machiavelli. The only reason Republicans are stalling healthcare is because they are the only ones applying Machiavelli while the Softocrats are pushing new limits to the abstract concept of soft in this country. Case in point HB 1388. If I got the number right, its a bill allowing Gaza i.e. Hamas refugees into the USA. A complete waste of $20M.

    I wish him the best of luck. Even if he runs into a disaster in the Diet, It was once said it does not rain every day, yes?

  2. Hehe. Freshman Democratic Congressman Grayson lays out in no uncertain terms on the floor of the House the GOP Health Plan, as well as the current coverage on offer from the insurance companies: DIE QUICKLY. Yes. Refreshing honesty always sounds good. The GOP wants to equivocate it with Joe Wilson, no such luck, because Grayson didn't violate House rules and he didn't interrupt the President during a speech. In any event Pelosi wouldn't censor her own members, especially if they come from the liberal wing of the Democratic Party. of course the Softocrats and GOP hypocrites are blabbing on the sunday talk shows wishing that Grayson didn't say that. but plenty of liberals and common sense Dems will rush to his defense. It's about time we had some backbone!