by Xia Ziyi
TOKYO, Sept. 21 (Xinhua) -- Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda was re-elected president of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) Friday afternoon as expected, holding on to the premiership for now despite low public support for his party and the daunting challenge of retaining DPJ's majority in the House of Representatives.
Noda, 55, easily defeated the other three rivals with 808 out of 1,231 points in the ballot voted by DPJ lawmakers and rank-and- file party members, and has expressed his willingness to reshuffle the Cabinet and take steps to prop up the economy, with the aim of restoring the shattered public confidence in his government in the run-up to a general election that must be held within a year.
Recent surveys show that the public approval rate for the DPJ has dipped below 30 percent, which is considered as a "danger zone " for the survival of a government amid widespread disenchantment over perceived lack of leadership and inner party discord.
The DPJ currently has 248 benches in the 480-seat House of Representatives of the bicameral Diet, comprising 245 DPJ seats and three held by the People's New Party, its coalition party, way below the 308 seats it won three years ago when it thrashed the then-ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).
The reality is if six or more DPJ legislators chose to quit the party whether to defect to another party or abandon the party to show opposition to the incumbent chief, the party will lose its majority in the House of Representatives, which means any no- confidence motion brought against the Cabinet has a strong possibility of passing through the lower house.
Former Agriculture Minister Hirotaka Akamatsu, who contested Noda in the just-concluded leadership race said following the election, "If six or seven lawmakers leave the party" robbing the DPJ of its majority in the lower house, "a no-confidence motion against the Cabinet could be submitted and passed."
According to the Japanese Constitution, if the lower house passes a no-confidence motion, the Cabinet has to resign en masse unless the chamber is dissolved within 10 days.
Some allies of the other two candidates -- former internal affairs minister Kazuhiro Haraguchi and former agriculture minister Michihiko Kano -- have already voiced eagerness to withdraw from the DPJ, rapping Noda for having split the party over his controversial proposal to double the country's 5 percent sales tax rate by 2015.
Meanwhile, some DPJ lawmakers also hope to leave the ruling party and embrace a new party -- Nippon Ishin no Kai or the Japan Restoration Party -- created earlier this month by telegenic Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto, a former TV personality aiming to reform national politics from his regional base.
The much-touted party could exert significant influence on the formation of a coalition government after the next lower house election that may take place soon after the main opposition LDP's closely watched presidential battle five days later, and many lawmakers are not hesitant to capitalize on the media attention and publicity galvanized by Hashimoto, local political analysts have said.
Noda re-elected DPJ head
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