TOKYO - Acting party leader Katsuya Okada was elected president of the Democratic Party of Japan on Sunday, defeating former party Secretary General Goshi Hosono in a runoff vote.
The race was contested among Okada, Hosono and former Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Akira Nagatsuma. With none of the three candidates winning a majority in the first round of voting, the top two finishers headed into the runoff.
Okada, 61, stressed his determination to restore the public's trust in the party after being elected president and pledged to revive the DPJ to make it strong enough to bring about a change in administration.
"We're going to win the next House of Representatives election and seize the reins of power," Okada said at a press conference following his victory.
Sunday's race was closely watched, as its result would determine the largest opposition party's future course - whether to rebuild itself on its own, or take the initiative to reorganise the entire opposition camp.
During the election campaign, Okada pursued the goal of rebuilding the DPJ on its own, expressing his opposition to uniting the DPJ with the Japan Innovation Party. His rival Hosono, on the other hand, was considered to be positive about cooperating with other opposition parties, including the JIP.
Hosono repeatedly stressed the importance of breaking with the party's past and making a fresh start.
Now that Okada has taken the DPJ presidency, any move to merge with the JIP will likely be put on the back burner.
In the first round of voting, which was held earlier Sunday, Hosono won 298 points, followed by Okada's 294 and Nagatsuma's 168.
In a five-minute final speech before the runoff, Okada repeatedly praised Nagatsuma's policies. Earlier in the day, the group headed by former lower house Vice Speaker Hirotaka Akamatsu, who supported Nagatsuma in the race, agreed to back Okada in the runoff if Nagatsuma failed to remain in the second round.
As the only candidate with experience as party president, Okada garnered 133 points in the runoff. The 43-year-old Hosono, who was running for president for the first time, acquired 120 points.
Nagatsuma's liberal supporters cast the deciding votes, so Okada will likely have to take liberal positions into account regarding the party's new approach to management and policies.
On Sunday, Okada reiterated his campaign policy of "going back to the starting point of the DPJ."
"The current DPJ is not trusted by the public, and I can't bear that. I cannot die and leave things this way. I want to rebuild our party one way or the other," Okada said in front of the party members at the voting venue.
Okada has been elected to the lower house nine times since 1990. He has served as DPJ secretary general three times, and was foreign minister and deputy prime minister under the DPJ-led administration. His term as president runs through September 2017.
Sunday's race was held to choose a successor to Banri Kaieda, who announced his resignation as DPJ head after losing his seat in the Dec. 14 lower house poll.