Factbox: Japan ruling party "shadow shogun" in the spotlight

TOKYO (BestGrowthStock) – Japanese ruling Democratic Party heavyweight Ichiro Ozawa, dubbed the “shadow shogun,” could again shake up the political scene after a rival led the party to a stunning upper house election loss on Sunday.

Local media speculated that Ozawa, for decades a pivotal figure in Japanese politics, would challenge Prime Minister Naoto Kan for the leadership or pull out of the party, taking lawmakers with him and perhaps forming alliances with other groups.

Kan had made a point of distancing himself from the scandal-tainted Ozawa since taking over as the Democrats’ leader and prime minister just a month ago.

Following are some facts about Ozawa:

* Ozawa has been an outspoken critic of Kan’s decision to bring up the idea of a sales tax rise weeks ahead of the election.

* Born in 1942, Ozawa was first elected to parliament as a member of the conservative LDP at 27 and rose rapidly through the ranks as a protege of party kingpins, including Kakuei Tanaka, the father of Japan’s modern pork-barrel politics. Promoted to LDP secretary-general at the age of 47, unusually young for Japan, he was once considered a candidate for prime minister.

* In 1993, Ozawa 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. That same year, Ozawa outlined his policies in a book, “A Blueprint for a New Japan,” calling for a bolder security role, 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, one of which briefly rejoined an LDP-led ruling bloc. But in 2003 his Liberal Party merged with the Democratic Party, the main opposition party at the time.

* He took the Democrats’ helm in 2006. He was forced to step down in May 2009 after a close aide was charged in a fund-raising scandal, but still helped engineer the party’s victory in an August election that ousted the LDP from power.

* Ozawa suffered a fresh setback in April when a judicial review panel said he should be charged over a political funding scandal. [ID:nTOE63Q066] The panel’s decision does not force an immediate indictment, but means Ozawa could be charged within several months. He resigned as Democratic Party secretary-general last month when Yukio Hatoyama abruptly quit as premier after funding scandals and weak leadership slashed party ratings.

* Ozawa has a reputation as an autocrat and has had a rocky relationship with domestic media. He also suffers from comparisons with more telegenic rivals, although he has tried to reach out to the public by chatting about his dogs and showcasing his skills in the chess-like Japanese game of Go.

(Editing by Jonathan Thatcher)

Factbox: Japan ruling party "shadow shogun" in the spotlight