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Campaigning begins for 2nd-largest opposition party leadership race

Yuichiro Tamaki, left, and Keisuke Tsumura (Mainichi)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Campaigning began Wednesday for the leadership contest of Japan's second-largest opposition party, with contenders tasked with boosting the party's support base and cooperating with the opposition camp.

The Sept. 4 election to pick the head of the Democratic Party for the People is expected to be a two-horse race between two lower house members, Yuichiro Tamaki and Keisuke Tsumura, who both registered their candidacies on Wednesday.

Tamaki, a four-term member of the House of Representatives, currently co-heads the party. He will be challenged by Keisuke Tsumura, a six-term member of the lower house. The new leader will serve until September 2021.

The party was established in May through a merger between two splinters of the now-defunct Democratic Party of Japan, which was in power between 2009 and 2012.

But it has not fared well in garnering support from voters and remains the second-largest opposition force in the Diet after the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan.

The approval rating for the party stood at a mere 0.9 percent, compared with a rating of 41.6 percent for the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, according to the latest survey conducted by Kyodo News last month.

The two contenders differ on how to cooperate with other opposition forces to challenge the LDP led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in the run-up to the House of Councillors election next year.

Tamaki, who represents a constituency in Kagawa Prefecture, western Japan, has called for working together with other opposition parties except for the Japanese Communist Party.

"This is the election to choose which one is fit to challenge the Abe administration," Tamaki told reporters.

Meanwhile, Tsumura, elected through proportional representation for the Chugoku region, also in western Japan, has not ruled out the possibility of joining hands with the JCP.

He stressed the need for a leadership revamp, saying, "To break the status quo, it is necessary to change players."

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