Japan opposition leader offers to resign

Other News Materials 5 November 2007 06:42 (UTC +04:00)

(Gulfnews) - Tokyo: Japan's main opposition leader said yesterday that he had decided to resign, just days after his party turned down an offer from the prime minister to join a new coalition and end a deadlock in parliament.

Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda sounded out Democratic Party leader Ichiro Ozawa on Friday about forming a new ruling coalition, but the offer was quickly rejected by Democratic Party executives, raising the spectre of more political confusion and policy gridlock.

"I have decided to resign to take responsibility, to people inside and outside the party, for the political confusion caused by the prime minister's proposal to form a new coalition," he told a news conference.

Ozawa strongly denied media reports that in fact he had taken the initiative in proposing a grand coalition, but acknowledged he had failed to win party support for a proposal to enter policy talks with the ruling parties.

"It was the equivalent of a vote of no confidence from the executives whom I appointed," he said.

Asked if he would leave the party, Ozawa said he had not said that and wanted to think carefully about his political activities from here on.

The Democratic Party and smaller allies took control of parliament's upper house in an election in July, meaning they can delay important legislation.

Analysts said that if Ozawa left the Democratic Party and took supporters with him, it could prompt the party to unravel.

The Democrats are an often fractious amalgam of former LDP members, ex-Socialists and hawkish younger lawmakers who differ on security matters and other important policies.

Despite initial assessments that Fukuda's image had been damaged by his courtship of the Democrats, analysts said Ozawa's resignation clearly signalled rough times ahead for the main opposition.

"Fukuda is doing a good job. He has no charisma, but he looks confident and talks well on his feet," said Steven Reed, a political science professor at Chuo University.

Reed said the Democrats could still salvage their image.

"It could go either way. The problem is how the transition [to a new leader] is handled and whether they maintain unity."

Born in 1942, Ichiro Ozawa was first elected to parliament as a candidate in Fukuda's Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) at the age of 27 and rose rapidly through the ranks as a protege of party kingpins. LDP secretary-general at the age of 47, he was once considered a candidate for prime minister.