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Yukio Hatoyama elected president of Japan's opposition party

YUKIO Hatoyama was elected president of the opposition Democratic Party of Japan today, setting to steer the party to oust the ruling Liberal Democratic Party in a key election this year.

Hatoyama won 124 ballots out of the total of 219, while the other candidate Katsuya Okada got 95 votes.

"I hope everyone can gather around the DPJ to complete a clean-up of Japan's politics," Hatoyama said after the election.

"Let me be the front-runner in the campaign for a regime change," he said, adding "let's end the era (in which policymaking is largely) controlled by bureaucrats."

The vote came after 66-year-old Ichiro Ozawa's resignation as party chief on Monday over a political donations scandal.

The 62-year-old Hatoyama, the right-handed man of Ichiro Ozawa, had voiced he would follow the policies of Ozawa to accomplish a victory in the House of Representatives election which has to be held by September.

Recent public polls showed DPJ still enjoyed a small lead over LDP as the preferred ruling party, despite the political fund scandal that forced Ozawa to resign.

The vote on the two candidates -- DPJ Secretary General Yukio Hatoyama and Vice President Katsuya Okada -- started at about 1:50pm today, following the policy speeches and a debate between them.

Only DPJ members with Diet seats can cast ballots for the election. A total of 221 lawmakers -- 112 lower house members and 109 upper house members -- are eligible voters.

A blue-blood politician, Hatoyama is one of the founding members of the DPJ that was launched in 1996 and headed the party from September 1999 to December 2002. He served as the DPJ Secretary General for three years since Ozawa became the chief.

Hatoyama's grandfather Ichiro Hatoyama was a former prime minister, his father Iichiro Hatoyama was a former foreign minister and his brother Kunio Hatoyama is currently internal affairs and communications minister.

Okada, 55, was known for his clean-cut image. He was DPJ president from May 2004 to September 2005.

Both candidates took the stance of basically sticking to the basic manifesto decided by Ozawa, but they differ on aspects such as revenue sources.

Hatoyama said that he is opposed to raising the consumption tax rate but in support of banning political donations from companies and groups, placing restrictions on candidates "inheriting" their constituencies from relatives.

Okada, meanwhile, believed a consumption tax increase necessary and called for "an early start of discussion".

Both candidates have voiced opposition to Prime Minister Aso's foreign policy, with Hatoyama insisting Japan should not send troops into combat areas abroad and Okada calling for a review of US military bases in Japan.


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