Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama and Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), Secretary General Ichiro Ozawa are under constant criticism by the Japanese media, regarding some allegedly sketchy financial deals and some questionable election funding. The continued probes are limiting the ability of the Democrats to govern effectively. As of Monday the DPJ will be beginning their first ordinary Diet session and will be under increased attack from the Liberal Democrats regarding the financial affairs of the both Hatoyama and Ozawa.
The Democrats have been battling with the problems for quite sometime now, and the subsequent investigations into some of the funding has led to arrests and ruined political careers inside the ruling party. Tomohiro Ishikawa a DPJ Lower House member was arrested on Friday in connection with financial irregularities, in connection with Ozawa's political funding. Ishikawa, is only the latest political victim of the Ozawa scandal. Two former Ozawa aides are facing the justice system over the 2004 Tokyo land deal when a reported ¥400 million changed hands without being registered. (1)
Currently, the members of the Democrat's coalition government are urging Ozawa to come clean on his financial dealings. According to an article on the front page of Saturday's edition of The Japan Times, the Secretaries General of both the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and the Kokumin Shinto (People's New Party) are calling for an explanation from Ozawa. “I expect (Ozawa) to make efforts to dispel public doubts,” said SDP Secretary General Yasumasa Shigeno. (2)
Prime Minister Hatoyama's financial dealings are also under a cloud of suspicion, but the Prime Minister has demonstrated a better ability than Ozawa to rise above the criticism. Hatoyama's financial donations in the lead up to his campaign and election last summer are under scrutiny and will be viciously challenged by the Liberal Democrats in the coming months. Hatoyama faces questions arising from his list of campaign contributors. It has become apparent that the Prime Minister's secretary had attempted to spread Hatoyama's family donations to a larger base of individual contributors. Hatoyama's family is extremely wealthy, due to the fact that his maternal grandfather was the man behind Bridgestone Corp. The Prime Minister's secretary apparently took large family donations and attributed them to a broader base of individuals, thus appearing that Hatoyama had a broader support base than he actually did. Some of the listed contributors were in fact no longer physically able to make donations, as they currently reside in the grave-yard. “It was only with media reports that deceased people had been falsely listed in Hatoyama's political fund reports as funding donors, and subsequent accusations from a citizens' organization, that the murky flow of vast amounts of funds surrounding the prime minister came to light.,” (3) reported the Mainichi Daily News in December.
The funding issues surrounding two of the Democrat's biggest political names could possibly have negative consequences in the upcoming House of Councilors election slated for July. Both Hatoyama and Ozawa will have to successfully deflect growing criticism from the media, the Liberal Democrats, the public and coalition partners in order to take full control of the governance of Japan.
(2) Kyodo. "Come Clean, DPJ's partners tell Ozawa." The Japan Times [Tokyo] Saturday, January 16th, 2010 , 3rd Edition, Front: A1.