The Democratic Party made history Thursday, electing Renho as the first female leader of the main opposition force.

The 48-year-old mother of two and former swimwear model, who previously served as deputy leader, was set to give a striking image makeover to a party dogged by lackluster popularity linked in part to its disastrous performance in power during the Fukushima nuclear crisis.

"We are up against the juggernaut of the ruling coalition and the highly popular administration" of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Renho said after being elected.