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photo: japantimes.co.jp

Renho wins leadership of Japan’s Opposition Democratic Party

TOKYO — Renho, a half-Taiwanese parliamentarian, was elected as the leader of Japan's main opposition party. The Democratic Party (DP) selected the acting leader Renho as its new chief Thursday.

This makes the 48-year-old third-term member of the House of Councillors as the first woman to head Japan’s main opposition party.

She easily defeated her competitors, the former administrative reform minister who is doing poorly in opinion polls by pledging to turn around the largest opposition party.

Renho also eliminated the former Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara and lower house lawmaker Yuichiro Tamaki.

Her relative youth and calm demeanor before the media is hoped to support the party as it seeks to wrestle power from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s.

At the party convention in Tokyo after her victory was announced Renho told fellow lawmakers and the audience, “We will thoroughly battle the (Abe) administration, not with criticism, but with the ability to boldly put forward proposals.”

“I want to build up trust bit by bit to turn (the Democratic Party) into a party the public can choose,” Renho told a press conference after the convention.

“We have policies and counter proposals (to those of the Abe government), and we can guarantee the people and skills (to realize them),” she said.

In the vote at the convention, Renho received 503 points out of a total of 849, paling Maehara’s 230 points and Tamaki’s 116 points.

Renho first prime task is improving the party’s credibility as a reliable competitioner to the LDP for the coming House of Representatives election.

The time of the election will depend on when Abe exercises his policy as prime minister to dismiss the chamber.

Renho will face off as leader against the ruling coalition for the first time in an extraordinary Diet session beginning on 26 September.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, the Abe government’s top spokesman, said in a press conference after the election, “I hope (Renho) will carry out specific policy debate constructively in the Diet.”

Renho captured public attention for her ability in grilling bureaucrats and picking apart their budget requests.

Her victory is seen as a shift in the DP's image, which was badly damaged by the Fukushima nuclear crisis.

She has promised to preserve Article 9 of the Japan's postwar constitution leaving the use of military force, a sharp contrast to current Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who many believe will preserve the article.

Renho was born in Japan to a Taiwanese father and Japanese mother and was naturalized as a Japanese citizen in 1985 at the age of 17 but still retain her Taiwanese citizenship.

Renho's dual citizenship caused controversy in the run-up to her election, the political opponents threatened to move a petition to suspense the party's leadership race.

But DP officials stated that Renho's candidacy followed the regulations and permitted her to run.

The leader of DP said she had attempted to renounce her Taiwanese citizenship after obtaining Japanese citizenship in 1985 at the age of 17. But due to language barrier she had not immediately understood the details of the process.

The 48-year-old politician actually has submitted an application to Taiwan's de-facto embassy in Japan on 7 September this year to renounce her Taiwanese citizenship.

Talking about her Taiwanese heritage, she told a Central News Agency reporter, "Taiwan is the home of my father. I will work hard in Japan. I hope the people of Taiwan will support me."

Renho, whose full name is Renho Murata,  is a three-term member of Japan's upper house and previously served as deputy leader of the DP. She was first elected to the upper house in 2004 representing the Tokyo constituency.

During the campaign, Renho appeared open to the possibility of switching her seat from the Diet’s upper house to its lower house, which would allow her to fulfill a customary requirement for becoming prime minister.