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Kiyoshi Sasamori was re-elected Friday as president of the Japanese Trade Union Confederation (Rengo), the country’s largest labor organization.

Sasamori, 62, easily beat challenger Tsuyoshi Takagi, 60, head of the Japanese Federation of Textile, Chemical, Food, Commercial, Service and General Workers’ Unions (UI Zensen Domei), Japan’s largest private-sector union federation, with about 784,000 members.

There were 502 delegates from each member union who voted in the Friday poll, the first contested election in six years for Rengo, which has 6.9 million unionists. Sasamori received 346 votes and Takagi garnered 149. Seven ballots were declared invalid.

Sasamori first became president of Rengo in an uncontested vote two years ago, replacing Etsuya Washio after working as Rengo’s general secretary since 1997. He was also head of a union at Tokyo Electric Power Co. and later led the Federation of Electric Power-Related Industry Workers’ Unions of Japan.

After being re-elected, Sasamori said he had gained much by experiencing the process of going through the vote.

“I would like to take it as a step toward the start of the rebirth and invigoration of the labor movement,” he said.

Takagi meanwhile said he believes all members understood the significance of needing an election. He thanked the non-UI Zensen Domei members who supported him.

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