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The Democratic Party of Japan on Saturday elected its secretary general, Mr. Yukio Hatoyama, as its new leader, ending an internal dispute that has rocked the party since the March 3 arrest of former party leader Mr. Ichiro Ozawa’s chief aide for alleged political donation irregularities. Mr. Hatoyama defeated deputy party leader Mr. Katsuya Okada in a 124-95 vote by DPJ Diet members.

Mr. Hatoyama’s win gives the No. 1 opposition party a chance to revive its struggle for power. But he needs to overcome many problems to lead his party to the goal of beating the Liberal Democratic Party in the next Lower House general elections.

Various polls show that a majority of those surveyed think that Mr. Ozawa’s resignation on May 11 came too late and that he failed to give a full explanation of his receipt of a large sum in political donations. In addition, because Mr. Hatoyama worked closely with Mr. Ozawa, there may arise suspicion that Mr. Hatoyama, despite his denial, is a puppet of Mr. Ozawa.

Since it was Mr. Ozawa’s political prowess that brought the party a big victory in the July 2007 Upper House elections, the DPJ cannot afford to stop relying on his ability to consolidate local election machines as the party prepares for the Lower House elections. Mr. Hatoyama must tackle the difficult task of uniting the leadership so that both Mr. Okada and Mr. Ozawa can work effectively to increase the overall strength of the party.

Apparently taking a cue from Mr. Ozawa’s political slogan of “People’s lives — the first priority,” Mr. Hatoyama called for building a “Society of brotherly love.” But he appears uncertain where the funds to implement his policies will come from. The DPJ needs to immediately work out a campaign platform that is free of claptrap, meaningless projects and based on solid financial sources. As people become pessimistic about the prospects for their lives, an important task is to present a grand vision of future Japan, including how to make bureaucracy work for the benefit of people. The DPJ does not have the luxury of intraparty bickering. It is time for party members to unite to achieve the party’s goal — change of government.

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