PRICES GO UP AT THE GATE
Hatoyama to fulfill mandate despite Ozawa scandal
Friday 15th January, 11:54 AM JST
Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama said Friday that he is determined to fulfill his mandate, as people swept his Democratic Party of Japan into power in the last national election, despite a political funds scandal involving Ichiro Ozawa, the DPJ kingpin who headed the party until shortly before the election.
Hatoyama expressed understanding about Ozawa’s reticence to go into detail about the scandal, telling reporters that ‘‘there is naturally a limit to which he can talk about it’’ while the prosecutors probe is still under way.
He acknowledged, however, the people feel that Ozawa has not fulfilled his duty of adequately explaining the issue.
Ozawa, who wields considerable power within the ruling party as secretary general and election strategist, has come under fresh fire after prosecutors searched his office, as well as that of his fund management body over alleged accounting irregularities on Wednesday.
‘‘This (Ozawa’s scandal) had already been a topic before the general election, but many in the public chose the DPJ in spite of this kind of problem,’’ Hatoyama said outside his official residence. ‘‘So we must fulfill our responsibilities.’‘
‘‘We must answer the call to break with the old-style politics, create a new one and make the economy better,’’ he added.
Hatoyama said at the same time that efforts are needed to create a ‘‘clean constitution’’ in politics when it comes to politicians and their relationship with money.
Although Ozawa is mired in a political funds scandal, Hatoyama said he will retain him as party secretary general and plans to head into the House of Councillors election next summer under the former party leader’s guidance.
Prosecutors have unsuccessfully requested Ozawa to appear for questioning on a voluntary basis in connection with their investigation into his former private secretary, who is suspected of failing to report income received by Ozawa’s fund management body. Most of the funds were allegedly used for a land purchase in 2004.
Wednesday’s search came after Ozawa apologized to the public for ‘‘giving false impression’’ over the allegations involving the land purchase by his fund management body called Rikuzankai. He denied any deliberate wrongdoing.
Ozawa played a key role in orchestrating the DPJ’s historic election win last August over the long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party.