Page last updated at 04:19 GMT, Monday, 9 March 2009

Japan's Ozawa pressured to resign

By Roland Buerk
BBC News, Tokyo

Ichiro Ozawa, news conference at Democratic Party of Japan HQ, Tokyo, 4 March 2009
Ichiro Ozawa is under new pressure ahead of elections

The leader of Japan's opposition who had been widely tipped to become Prime Minister is facing more pressure to stand down.

Surveys have suggested more than half of Japanese want Ichiro Ozawa to go after his chief secretary was arrested over a political donations scandal.

Mr Ozawa - who denies any wrongdoing - said the charges against his aide were unfair and that he would not resign.

National elections must be called by September.

The scandal over political donations creates more uncertainty in Japan just as the world's second biggest economy is staggering into deep recession.

Transparent politics

Ichiro Ozawa has said he will stay as leader of the opposition Democratic Party of Japan but his reputation has been damaged.

Last week his chief secretary was arrested on suspicion of accepting money illegally from a construction firm.

Mr Ozawa denied any wrongdoing but now a survey by the Kyodo news agency has shown 61% of people want him to stand down.

Ichiro Ozawa had been widely tipped to win elections that deeply unpopular Prime Minister Taro Aso must call by September.

His Democratic Party of Japan promises more transparent politics if it can wrest power from Mr Aso's Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) for only the second time in half a century.

But the scandal undermines Mr Ozawa's image as a reformer, reminding voters that his skills as a political fixer were honed in the backrooms of the LDP before he defected.

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