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Opposition-backed newcomer Mieko Yoshimura defeated Yamagata Gov. Hiroshi Saito in his re-election bid Sunday in an effective faceoff between the ruling and opposition parties, dealing a blow to struggling Prime Minister Taro Aso.

Yoshimura’s win in the close race is expected to give the Democratic Party of Japan a boost ahead of the next House of Representatives election, which must be held by the fall. Yamagata Prefecture has been a stronghold of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

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