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Tamisuke Watanuki, former secretary general of the Liberal Democratic Party, was elected speaker of the House of Representatives on Tuesday.

Watanuki, head of the LDP’s largest faction, formerly led by the late Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi, gained 286 of the 479 votes cast in a Lower House poll held at the outset of a three-day special Diet session convened Tuesday.

He was nominated by the LDP, New Komeito and the New Conservative Party, the ruling coalition which holds a comfortable majority in the 480-member lower chamber.

Opposition party members, who could not reach agreement with the coalition over selection of the vice speaker of the Lower House, cast 189 blank ballots in protest.

The start of Tuesday’s Lower House plenary session was stalled for more than 90 minutes as the two sides grappled over the matter.

Kozo Watanabe, former vice speaker of the lower chamber, was re-elected to the post with support from the three ruling parties, garnering 287 of 479 votes cast.

Watanabe belongs to Mushozoku no Kai, a group of independents.

A total of 189 votes from the opposition camp went to Hajime Ishii of the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan. The opposition parties claim that the post of vice speaker of the lower chamber has traditionally been held by a member of a major opposition party.

Watanuki, 73, once headed the National Land Agency, a ministerial post, and also served as construction minister. He won his 11th term in the Lower House in the June 25 election running from the Toyama No. 3 constituency.

Watanabe, 68, formerly served as health and welfare minister, home affairs minister, and minister of international trade and industry. A native of Fukushima Prefecture, he also won his 11th term in the Diet in the election last week.

The posts of Lower House speaker and vice speaker are customarily held by veteran legislators. The position of speaker, especially, is seen as the top post one can assume in the legislature.