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Ex-prime minister regains Japan's opposition party crown

Former prime minister Shinzo Abe stands as Diet members of Japan's opposition Liberal Democratic Party clap after he was chosen as party president in Tokyo yesterday/The Yomiuri Shimbun

Publication Date : 27-09-2012


Former prime minister Shinzo Abe was elected to lead Japan's main opposition party yesterday, defeating Shigeru Ishiba, former chairman of the Liberal Democratic Party's Policy Research Council, in a runoff vote.

"I'll devote all my energy to regaining the reins of government with your help," Abe told LDP members after his election.

"Regaining power is not for ourselves, nor for the party. I want to create a Japan that is rich and strong, so Japanese will be happy to live in this country," Abe said.

Abe, 58, trailed Ishiba in the first round, but succeeded in turning the tables in the two-man runoff. The last time a second-place LDP candidate won a runoff was in 1956, when Tanzan Ishibashi beat Nobusuke Kishi.

Abe won 108 of 197 valid votes in the runoff, while Ishiba had 89.

Only Diet members were eligible to vote in the runoff, while local chapters were permitted to cast ballots in the first round. Based on votes cast by eligible rank-and-file members, respective chapters' ballots were distributed proportionally to candidates in accordance with the number of votes they won.

Ishiba led the first round with 199 votes, followed by Abe, who had 141 votes. Among the three other candidates, LDP Secretary General Nobuteru Ishihara finished third with 96 votes. As none of the candidates secured a majority in the first round, a runoff was needed between the top two candidates.

"I'll take this result to heart," Ishiba said. "I'll work together with party members as a team to win as many seats as possible in the next general election, the metropolitan assembly election and House of Councillors election."

"I was simply out of my league," Ishihara said. "From now on, I want to work for the party as a foot soldier."

In the first round, Ishiba gained wide support from local chapters, winning 165 of the 300 votes cast. However, he only received support from 34 Diet members. Ishihara won most Diet members' votes with 58, but managed to obtain only 38 votes from local chapters.

It was the second time for Abe to become LDP president, having led the party from 2006 to 2007. Since the party's founding in 1955, it was the first time a former president has regained office after a hiatus. Abe became prime minister in September 2006, but resigned a year later after becoming ill.

Abe will serve a three-year term that will expire at the end of September 2015. The LDP will now aim to regain power in the next House of Representatives election. The party lost the reins of government to the Democratic Party of Japan in the lower house election in 2009.

The presidential election, held upon the expiration of Sadakazu Tanigaki's term of office, was contested by Abe, Ishiba, Ishihara, former Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura and Yoshimasa Hayashi, acting chairman of the Policy Research Council.

Diet members had 198 votes while 300 votes were allotted to local chapters.

Abe, who belongs to a faction led by Machimura, was first elected to the lower house in 1993, and has served six terms from Yamaguchi Constituency No. 4. He also has served as chief cabinet secretary and LDP secretary general.


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