After weeks of circling the drain, of calls from members of his own party to resign or clarify his explanation of why his aide was wrongfully accused, Ozawa has decided to call it quits. He will not be resigning from the Diet, and he has called for a DPJ party election following the debate over the supplementary budget.
Sankei reports on the damage that Ozawa has done to the DPJ by waiting until now to resign, but on the whole it is hard to see how this hurts the DPJ. In the short term it might, as the media hammers the DPJ leadership for protecting Ozawa for so long. But before long the candidates to replace Ozawa will step forward and Ozawa’s grizzled visage will fade from view as the public face of the party that aspires to be the party of change in this year’s election. Particularly since it looks as if a general election will not be held before July, the new DPJ leader — presumably Okada Katsuya — will have just enough time to expunge the taint of Ozawa, to promise that the DPJ will be the party of clean politics, before heading into the election campaign.
Deprived of the gift that was Ozawa’s scandal, the LDP and Komeito are back to hoping that the economy somehow shows signs of life in time for the general election. Ozawa’s resignation will also deprive the LDP of its argument that Ozawa would endanger Japanese security by undermining the US-Japan alliance with his “irresponsible” talk.
There is still the chance that the DPJ let Ozawa hang on for too long, but in this case, perhaps too late is better than never.