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Kan easily defeats Ozawa for DPJ President

Date Posted: 2010-09-16

The battle between Naoto Kan and party powerbroker Ichiro Ozawa was anything but the tight election race predicted Tuesday, with the Prime Minister scoring a decisive victory as president of the Democratic Party of Japan.

Kan, who took over as prime minister only three months ago, was challenged in the party presidential election by Ozawa, who had been a staunch supporter of former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, and who in recent weeks had become sharply critical of Kan. Kan racked up 721 of the 1,222 points in the election against only 491 for Ozawa. The Prime Minister outpolled Ozawa in every voter category—412 to 400 among party lawmakers, 60 to 40 from local assembly members, and 249 to 51 among registered rank-and-file members and supporters—en route to the win that gives him a new two-year term as DPJ president.

The Prime Minister was quick to say he will not dissolve the House of Representatives, the Diet’s Lower House, ruling out calls for early elections. Kan says he will now restructure his cabinet as well as the DPJ executive team in order to work more effectively with a Diet that’s been weakened by the DPJ’s loss of power in July House of Councilors elections. He says the focus now is to put aside party rivalries and reunite the party. The 63-year-old Kan and Ozawa had clashed bitterly over the past two weeks, each levying harsh words against the other.

Kan says he has no intention of punishing those who voted for the 58-year-old Ozawa, instead saying “I would like to ask for your cooperation to make a party where all members can fully use their strengths.” Ozawa has not committed to supporting Kan, but did tell his supporters “as a foot soldier, I will continue to work with you for the success of the DPJ government. Kan says the primary focus will be on rebuilding Japan’s ailing economy while working with the Lower House members. He is also fully aware of the troubles his administration faces with resolving the Okinawa political opposition to the relocation of Futenma Marine Corps Air Station in Okinawa, as well as problems to Japan’s growth posed by the strengthened yen.

The U.S. dollar tumbled again Tuesday after Kan’s victory, sending more ripples of unrest on the markets. The yen is now at 83 to the U.S. dollar, the lowest since May 1995. Major Japanese bank officials say the DPJ election is unlikely to play a role in the dollar-yen future, but foreign exchange traders are predicting that “a fall of the dollar below 80 yen will be a trigger for “currency players to test Japan’s determination for market intervention.”

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