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Japan ruling party leadership vote set for Sept.14

Japan's Prime Minister Naoto Kan raises his hand to answer a question next to Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda during the lower house budget committee session at Parliament in Tokyo August 2, 2010. REUTERS/Toru Hanai

TOKYO (Reuters) - The leadership vote for Japan’s ruling Democratic Party will take place on Sept. 14, the party’s secretary-general said on Monday, as Prime Minister Naoto Kan fights for his political life after his party’s election defeat.

Kan’s Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) and its tiny ally lost their upper house majority in a July 11 election after Kan, who took power in June, floated a possible doubling of the 5 percent sales tax to rein in the country’s huge public debt.

The 63-year-old, Japan’s fifth premier in three years, said last week he remains committed to fiscal reform and that he would run in the leadership race, in which DPJ lawmakers, party members and supporters will vote to choose the party head, who will also become prime minister.

Kan could face a challenge from party powerbroker Ichiro Ozawa, who was sidelined before the upper house election in an effort to woo voters put off by his scandal-tainted image.

Despite falling voter support for Kan’s government, public opinion polls show that many see no need for Kan to quit, a sign that voters no longer want revolving-door leaders as Japan struggles with a public debt almost twice the size of its $5 trillion economy and growing welfare costs in an ageing society.

The DPJ remains in power by virtue of its huge majority in parliament’s powerful lower house. But the coalition’s loss of upper house control means it must find allies to enact bills, including legislation to implement the 2011/12 budget.

(Reporting by Yoko Kubota; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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