Ichiro Ozawa kicked off a battle against Prime Minister Naoto Kan in a bid to become chief of the Democratic Party of Japan. The election will take place on September 14th. Under the country's parliamentary system, the head of the ruling party almost certainly becomes prime minister.
Ozawa, 68, is a veteran powerbroker who has earned nicknames like "Shadow Shogun" and the "Destroyer" for his record of creating and splitting parties. Ozawa's challenge increases chances that Japan may undergo yet another change of leadership. The country has had five prime ministers in three years.
Although Ozawa is unpopular with voters because of campaign funding scandals, in which he denies any wrongdoing, he controls the biggest faction within the DPJ, with about 150 out of 412 lawmakers.
The two rivals met Tuesday in talks brokered by former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama in a last-ditch effort to avoid further infighting. However, the talks resulted a stalemate, with Kan telling reporters afterward that there would be no closed-door deals with Ozawa in exchange for his withdrawal from the leadership race.
Japan political veteran says he'll vie for PM job [Associated Press, 1 Sept 2010]
Japan PM Kan, rival Ozawa in leadership battle [AFP, 1 Sept 2010]