October 7, 2008 / 5:02 AM / 12 years ago

Japan opposition leader Ozawa hospitalized: report

TOKYO (Reuters) - The head of Japan’s main opposition party, Ichiro Ozawa, has been hospitalized with a bad cold, Kyodo News Agency reported on Tuesday, at a time when lawmakers are gearing up for a widely expected snap election.

The Democratic Party leader was admitted to the hospital on Monday evening and is likely to be discharged this week, Kyodo reported, citing a source from the party.

An official at the Democratic Party declined to comment, while a spokesperson at Ozawa’s office in Tokyo could not be immediately reached.

The 66-year-old veteran lawmaker, who has heart problems, urged Prime Minister Taro Aso last week in parliament to call a snap election to give voters a chance to decide the government.

Aso said on Monday he was not thinking about an immediate election because of the financial crisis.

But some doubt that he can wait too long as the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) fears a boost in support after Aso became leader might be short-lived.

Ozawa, a former heavyweight of the LDP who bolted 15 years ago and helped briefly oust the party from power, tends to limit public appearances in order to schedule rest time.

He has campaigned on populist policies of cutting gas taxes and strengthening welfare in a bid to depose the LDP, which has ruled Japan for almost all of the last half century.

Last July, he failed to appear at a scheduled news conference after the upper house election, sparking concerns about his health. Party officials said he was recuperating from fatigue.

His voice has been hoarse recently, and domestic media showed him attending a meeting on Monday wearing a mask and a scarf wrapped around his throat.

Editing by Rodney Joyce

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