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World News

Japan opposition head reappears after election win

TOKYO (Reuters) - Ichiro Ozawa, the head of Japan’s main opposition Democratic Party, appeared in public on Tuesday for the first time since his party scored a landslide victory in an upper house election over the weekend.

Ichiro Ozawa, head of the main opposition Democratic Party, speaks at a meeting at the Democratic Party's headquarters in Tokyo July 31, 2007. Ozawa appeared in public on Tuesday for the first time since his party scored a landslide victory in an upper house election over the weekend. REUTERS/Kyodo

Ozawa, 65, has heart problems and his absence from the public eye since Sunday’s election, in which opposition parties won a majority in the chamber, had rekindled concerns about his health and doubts about his ability to lead the fractious party.

He failed to appear at a scheduled post-election news conference on Sunday, and party officials said he was recuperating from fatigue after a tough campaign.

He vowed on Tuesday to unseat the government, which remains in power because of its control of the more powerful lower house of parliament.

“They are trying to push ahead with something as outrageous as maintaining the cabinet even after losing their majority,” Ozawa told a meeting of party executives.

“The public will not understand such selfishness,” he told the gathering.

The pugnacious veteran politician, who quit the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) 14 years ago, has vowed to make the upper house win a step towards an early general election.

“We’ve reached the first stage, but the real battle awaits.”

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling coalition has a hefty majority in the lower house and no election for that chamber need be held until late 2009.

Sunday’s mauling will make it hard for Abe’s coalition to pass new laws but the prime minister said he would stay on as leader and he had no plans for an early lower house election.

The Democrats are an amalgam of ex-LDP lawmakers, former socialists and young conservatives, some of whom may be targeted for poaching by the ruling camp.

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