TOKYO, JAPAN: Japan's veteran politician Ichiro Ozawa on Thursday denied quitting ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) despite being in the midst of a funds fraud scandal, the Japan Times reported.
Ozawa refused to leave the DPJ party despite a call from Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan. The former DPJ leader also rejected a call to address the fraud scandal. Ozawa has a pending trial for allegedly misreporting political funds.
"I was asked to keep away from the party until the trial is over," Ozawa said. "I have done nothing to be ashamed of."
PM Kan, who is also the current DPJ leader, met with Ozawa for about 50 minutes but failed to convince the veteran politician of distancing himself from the ruling party. It is expected that the PM will propose suspending Ozawa in an executive meeting on Monday.
The current situation is causing an internal strife within the DPJ. The ruling party no longer has majority in the Upper House as opposition parties control two thirds of it. A DPJ-led coalition has majority in the Lower House.
DPJ Secretary General Katsuya Okada said the party will begin the process of taking punitive action against Ozawa next Monday when the party's executive board will hold a meeting.
Okada added that the party is considering stripping Ozawa's membership. If this action is confirmed, Ozawa can still be a party member but will not be able to run as a party candidate or for the DPJ presidency.
On December 20, PM Kan met with Ozawa to discuss the fraud allegations. The Premier failed to convince the long-time politician to testify before a parliamentary ethics panel.
In mid-January, Kan reshuffled his cabinet in order to boost his popularity and improve ties with opposition parties. Kan did not offer any key posts to lawmakers closely affiliated with Ozawa due to the funds scandal.
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