Ichirō Ozawa - Anti-LDP Coalition

Anti-LDP Coalition

Ozawa was extremely successful in luring LDP members to the Renewal Party, causing the LDP to lose its majority in the Diet. In keeping with his previous LDP role, Ozawa became the behind-the-scenes power broker of the large coalition that took power in the wake of the LDP split. While he and Hata were the most experienced administrators, they decided to name Morihiro Hosokawa, leader of the tiny Japan New Party, as coalition leader. This was done both as a gesture of neutrality to the other coalition members, and as a means of keeping Hata in the wings as a future option if Hosokawa proved unsuccessful.

While Hosokawa served as Prime Minister, Ozawa was recognised as the major political force in the coalition. He capitalised on his reputation in 1993 by publishing a clear statement of his principles in the book Blueprint for a New Japan (日本改造計画, Nihon Kaizō Keikaku?). The book called for political, legal and military reform to transform Japan into what Ozawa called a "normal nation." Strong ideological consistency was uncommon in Japanese politicians, and the book had considerable impact.

Ozawa's insistence on a more assertive role for Japan in international affairs caused friction with members of the Japan Socialist Party in the coalition. Eventually, the Socialists left to form a coalition with the LDP, leaving Tsutomu Hata in charge of a minority government that fell in June 1994. Many, including Hata, blamed Ozawa for the loss. Ozawa himself began to move into the public eye, especially with the arrival of the New Frontier Party.

Former Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu had founded the New Frontier Party in 1994. After joining the coalition, it became a catch-all party for the merger of several smaller parties. After a bitter leadership struggle in 1995, Ozawa took over the party, just as his old rival Ryutaro Hashimoto was assuming leadership of the LDP. Most commentators believed that a new Ichi-Ryu War would finally provide a genuinely competitive two-party system in Japanese politics. However, the New Frontier Party was already beginning to unravel.

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