Conservative lawmaker Seiji Maehara was elected president of the Democratic Party on Friday, potentially fueling moves toward an opposition realignment that could lead to the advent of a new challenger to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's ruling coalition.

Maehara, a 55-year-old Kyoto native, faces the onerous task of reviving the opposition party that is arguably in the throes of an existential crisis as it grapples with chronically lackluster popularity.

To many voters, Maehara is a familiar face. He has held multiple portfolios including foreign minister when the Democratic Party of Japan, the DP's predecessor, was in power between 2009 and 2012.