Japan's PM Yoshihiko Noda wins party leadership vote

Japan Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda 21 September 2012 Mr Noda is Japan's sixth prime minister in six years

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Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has won a party leadership vote against three challengers, more than a year after assuming office.

Mr Noda was re-elected president of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) by a convincing majority, local media report. He will remain prime minister.

He became DPJ head after Naoto Kan resigned after the Fukushima crisis.

Mr Noda, Japan's sixth prime minister in six years, has faced pressure on many issues like the sales tax hike.

The leadership vote, held every two years, is a requirement under DPJ's party rules.

Three others challenged Mr Noda for DPJ chief - former agriculture ministers Michihiko Kano and Hirotaka Akamatsu, and former Internal Affairs Minister Kazuhiro Haraguchi.

Analysts had expected Mr Noda to easily win the vote, as key figures such as former PM Kan and policy chief Seiji Maehara said that they would back him.

Mr Noda has had to deal with many controversial issues as prime minister.

One was on the controversial tax rise that saw bitter disagreement and gridlock among Japan's lawmakers and caused a rift in the ruling DPJ.

Mr Noda said that doubling the tax from 5% to 10% by 2015 was key to cutting Japan's high public debt and funding rising welfare costs.

He is also under increased pressure over an impending election, due to be called by next year.

Other key public issues he continues to face are the country's use of nuclear energy and the ongoing row over disputed islands with China.

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