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FP: Japan's New Shadow Shogun

Author: Tobias Harris
August 29, 2009

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Tobias Harris explains how Ichirio Ozawa, former Democratic Party of Japan president, is behind the rise of the recently victorious opposition party.

The center-right Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has dominated the Japanese Diet for more than a half-century. It oversaw the economic stagnation of the 1990s, and it revitalized itself in the 2000s only to fall into fractious disarray by 2006. The voting public has finally had enough -- and the opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) looks almost certain to take power in the Aug. 30 general election.

The stark shift in political tides is perhaps best described as the LDP's loss, more so than the DPJ's gain. But the opposition party has transformed itself from an inchoate also-ran to a disciplined and united political movement. That change is mostly due to one man: Ichiro Ozawa, the DPJ's recently disgraced and highly powerful former leader. And though he won't be at the head of the party, his role within it is one of the big questions facing the DPJ as it looks toward victory this month.

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