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Japan's 2nd largest opposition party chooses chief amid low support

Yuichiro Tamaki (Mainichi)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japan's second-largest opposition party, the Democratic Party for the People, elected one of its two co-leaders as its sole head Tuesday as it struggles to boost its low support ratings ahead of key elections next year.

Yuichiro Tamaki, a four-term member of the House of Representatives, beat challenger Keisuke Tsumura in the first leadership contest since the party was formed in May through a merger between two splinters of the now-defunct Democratic Party of Japan, which was in power between 2009 and 2012.

"Let's join hands to create politics for the people. I will make utmost efforts to lead" the move, Tamaki told party members shortly after being elected.

Tamaki, who worked for the Finance Ministry before winning his parliamentary seat, had led the party together with House of Councillors member Kohei Otsuka, who did not compete in the election. The 49-year-old Tamaki will lead the party until September 2021.

A total of 61 lawmakers across both Diet chambers belong to the party, making it the second-largest opposition force after the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, which also emerged from the Democratic Party of Japan. The Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan has 75 seats.

Tamaki will be tasked with broadening the party's support base and promoting cooperation with other opposition parties in the run-up to the unified local elections and the upper house election next year.

In a press conference, Tamaki expressed his party's readiness to coordinate fielding candidates with other opposition parties, in particular in single-seat constituencies, to challenge the ruling bloc led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Liberal Democratic Party in the upcoming national election.

But the approval rating for the Democratic Party for the People remains low at 1.5 percent, in comparison with 43.8 percent for the LDP, according to the latest survey conducted by Kyodo News late last month.

The ruling party, which holds a majority in both chambers, will also hold its leadership race later in the month, in which Abe is widely projected to secure his third consecutive term.

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