Thursday, May 20, 2010

Oh Yes We Did So Get It Right!

Kudos the Public Prosecutors Office. After questioning Democratic Party of Japan Secretary-General Ozawa Ichiro on Saturday and his former political secretary Ishikawa Tomohiro on Monday, the prosecutors are reportedly going to reaffirm their decision to not prosecute Ozawa.

This is a surprisingly positive, if not entirely surprising, result. While the prosecutors were unlikely to reverse their decision to not prosecute Ozawa, on the grounds that such would have been an admission that they, the professionals, had failed to be sufficiently diligent in the performance of their duties the first time out...that is until a randomly selected group of average citizens showed them the error of their ways...they also did not take the cowardly route out of their predicament. Rather than come out and say, "Yes, we were right, there are no grounds to indict Ozawa," the prosecutors could have just sat on their hands for another 82 days, at which time the Committee for the Inquest of the Prosecution could order its own prosecution, carried out by court-appointed lawyers. By tossing the case back to the Committee with the label "There is Nothing in Here" on it, the prosecutors are daring the Committee to grasp the nettle of actively interfering in the conduct of the House of Councillors election.

Now the case goes back to the Committee. Under normal circumstances, the Committee, having already come to a decision once to reject the judgment of the prosecutors, should have little trouble rejecting again. However, the reality that the Committee really will be ordering an extraordinary prosecution of the leader of the main party of government on the eve of a harshly contested election, may give Committee members pause. While those serving on the Committee have an interest in appearing consistent in their rulings, they also have an interest in not interfering too obviously in the political process.

The decision the prosecutors puts the Committee in the position to do just that -- be perceived to be messing with the election.

Just what the Committee will decide to do is very much up in the air; the disincentives are far to weak to inhibit a decision to second-guess the prosecutors again.

One matter is certain, however: there is a zero percent chance of Ozawa ever being convicted of the crimes of which he has been accused. The prosecutors, given a second chance at Ozawa, found nothing worth pursuing.

Members of the DPJ need to pray that Ozawa does not gloat at the Committee's failure to bullrush the Prosecutors Office into indicting him. Ozawa already was in high spirits after his questioning over the weekend, and on Monday seemed to be backing away from his earlier offers to appear before the House of Representatives Council on Political Ethics. An appearance before the Council, while superfluous given the prosecutors's decision not to indict, would put an exclamation point on the message that Ozawa has so far has failed to communicate to the public: that he has nothing, absolutely nothing to hide.

It is hard to overemphasize how lucky Ozawa has been in all this. Had just one of his former secretaries broken down under pressure and signed a statement that he had kept Ozawa fully informed of all transactions carried out by the Rikuzankai, it could have been curtains for the DPJ's Secretary-General.

1 comment:

Jan Moren said...

Ozawas - and the DPJ's - basic problem is that this really doesn't matter. The public persona that Ozawa has built over a lifetime of shady-looking political deals fits exactly with the idea of illegal funding. Nobody that matters (ie. those who aren't already fiercely partisan) really believes he had nothing to do with it.

It's a matter of narrative, as always. "Famously devious political operator finally seems to get caught in his own webs of deceit, but pulls a masterful move and escapes at the last moment" rolls of the tongue very easily.

"Famously devious political operator gets indicted for some of his shady deals, but he turns out to be innocent of those particular crimes" just does not work.

And like it or not, narrative matters; it matters more than facts. Ozawa and the DPJ has never been able to break free of this narrative, so they'll suffer the consequences no matter what the facts happen to be.