Naoto Kan, 52, was reinstalled Monday as leader of the Democratic Party of Japan, defeating Shigefumi Matsuzawa, 40, at a DPJ convention.

In balloting by the party’s 145 Diet members and 94 regional representatives, Kan captured 180 votes against 51 cast for Matsuzawa, who was mainly supported by the party’s younger Diet members.

Although Kan’s victory had been widely expected, because of the strong backing he has received from key DPJ Diet members, including Deputy Secretary General Yukio Hatoyama and Secretary General Tsutomu Hata, Matsuzawa managed to get more votes than expected. “We’ve fought (the election) after thorough discussions and under fair procedures. From now on, we’ll fight against a new enemy,” Kan said after the party election.

Matsuzawa told the DPJ convention: “Let’s be united in our support for Mr. Kan and capture governing power in the next election.”

Asked why he captured more votes than expected, Matsuzawa told reporters it reflects the high expectations many members of the party have for the DPJ’s younger ranks, instead of any opposition to Kan’s leadership.

The race for party head was the first since the DPJ was launched last April with the merger of it, Minseito (Good Governance Party), Shinto Yuai (Amity Party) and the Democratic Reform Party.

Matsuzawa, the only challenger to Kan, chose to run after casting doubts over how the party selected its leaders and calling for more younger Diet members in the party’s leadership.

Since the DPJ’s establishment, its executive posts have been held by former leaders of the four predecessor parties. Kan carefully maintained a power balance involving the four forces within the DPJ by providing key party posts.

Matsuzawa said he wanted to revitalize the DPJ, which he said is losing energy as the No. 1 opposition party despite its stunning victory in last July’s Upper House election.

At the convention, other new faces were also endorsed for key posts. While Secretary General Hata and Deputy Secretary General Hatoyama remained at their posts, Deputy DPJ leader Kansei Nakano was selected the new chairman of the party’s policy affairs council and Michihiko Kano was chosen to chair its Diet affairs committee.

The DPJ convention also adopted a 1999 action plan to seek wide support from other opposition parties in the Diet, especially in the Upper House, where the ruling Liberal Democratic Party-Liberal Party alliance lacks a majority.

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