REUTERS - Japanese ruling Democratic Party powerbroker Ichiro Ozawa, dubbed the “shadow shogun”, could shake up the political scene again when he runs against Prime Minister Naoto Kan in a party leadership vote on Sept. 14.
The 68-year-old lawmaker heads the biggest group in the Democratic Party of Japan and on Thursday said he had decided to run. The winner is likely to become prime minister because of the DPJ’s majority in the powerful lower house.
Following are some key facts about Ozawa.
* Ozawa has criticised Kan for having brought up the idea of raising the 5 percent sales tax before July’s upper house vote.
* Born in 1942, Ozawa was first elected to parliament as a member of the conservative Liberal Democratic Party at 27 and was promoted to LDP secretary-general at the age of 47.
* In 1993, he left the LDP with about 40 other lawmakers, setting off a chain reaction that ended the party’s rule after four decades and briefly replaced it with a reform-minded coalition. He wrote a book that year, calling for reforms to reduce bureaucratic control and underscoring the need for a viable rival party to the LDP.
* After the LDP returned to power in 1994, Ozawa formed a series of new parties. In 2003 his Liberal Party merged with the Democratic Party, the main opposition party at the time.
* He took the helm of the DPJ in 2006. He was forced to step down in May 2009 after a close aide was charged in a fund-raising scandal, but was instrumental in engineering the party’s victory in an August election that ousted the LDP from power.
* A judicial review panel, made up of ordinary citizens, said in April he should be charged over a political funding scandal. That decision did not force an immediate indictment but the panel is now studying the case for a second time. If it decides Ozawa must face charges, it will force the courts to appoint lawyers to prosecute the case. The decision is expected to come after the Democrats’ leadership race.
* Ozawa resigned as DPJ secretary-general in June when Hatoyama abruptly quit as premier after funding scandals and weak leadership slashed party ratings.
* Ozawa suffered a mild heart attack in 1991 and tends to limit public appearances in order to schedule rest time.
* He has a reputation as an autocrat and has had a rocky relationship with domestic media.
* He called Americans “simple-minded” in a speech earlier this week. In the past, he has also praised Buddhism while calling Christianity “exclusive and self-righteous”.