TOKYO, May 11 (Xinhua) -- Japan's main opposition leader Ichiro Ozawa on Monday announced his resignation as president of the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) as a political fund-raising scandal threatened the party's chances to win the general election this year.
"I have decided to step down as party leader to strengthen the unity of the party towards a clear victory in the next election and achieve a change in government," Ozawa told a televised news conference.
"I believe it is imperative that we win the elections," Ozawa said. "I do not want to impede that in any way."
Ozawa suffered image problem and was under great pressure from both inside DPJ and the public following the indictment of his top secretary in the Nishimastsu political funds scandal.
His resignation was apparently aimed at avoiding the incident's negative impact on DPJ in the election, which is eyeing to break the nearly consecutive rule of Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).
Analysts said the change will likely to stop DPJ's public support from declining, but it's uncertain if the party could shake off the impact and win the election.
They also believed Prime Minister could call an earlier election, before the DPJ members can unite around their new chief.
A general election has to be held by fall this year, according to the Japanese constitution.
Before the scandal was unveiled, public opinion polls had shown more people prefer Ozawa to be the next Prime Minister of Japan.
Ozawa was at first unyielding, vowing to stay on as leader of DPJ and accused the prosecutors of politically motivated.
At the press conference, Ozawa still said he "felt nothing guilty about the political funds".
But recent polls had shown a dwindling popularity of Ozawa. In a telephone survey released Monday by the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper, 71 percent of respondents said they are not happy with Ozawa's decision to remain leader of DPJ despite the scandal.
Former DPJ chiefs such as Katsuya Okada and Naoto Kan are believed as potential successors to Ozawa within the party.
Ozawa said the election to pick his successor should be held after the lower house completes its deliberations on the fiscal 2009 supplementary budget so as to minimize the impact on the public.
Ozawa's top secretary, 47-year-old Takanori Okubo, was indicted on March 24 for receiving 35 million yen (357,000 U.S. dollars) in donations from scandal-tainted Nishimatsu Construction Co. in violation of the political funds control law.