Japan opposition head quits as PM Abe suffers scandal

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TOKYO (AP) — The leader of Japan's main opposition party said Thursday she is stepping down, citing her failure to regain voter support despite a series of scandals buffeting the ruling party.

The announcement by Democratic Party leader Renho comes as her party is spearheading opposition questioning of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his Cabinet over the scandals.

Renho became her party's first female leader and was considered a possible future prime minister when the Democrats were in power from 2009 to 2012. Since then they have lost significant ground in parliamentary and local elections, including Tokyo city assembly elections earlier this month.

Renho, a former TV personality who uses one name and is known for her sharp tongue, said she decided to step down after only 10 months to help reunite and strengthen the party.

"I made the decision to rebuild our party ... as a viable choice under a two-party system and for the benefit of the people of Japan," she said, adding that she will remain a lawmaker to build a society that tolerates diversity.

There was no immediate announcement of her successor.

Originally founded in the 1990s as the Democratic Party of Japan, the Democrats have sought to create a strong two-party system in a country long dominated by the Liberal Democrats.

The popularity of Abe's administration has plunged over the scandals, which include accusations of misuse of power and cronyism, but Renho's party has been unable to appeal broadly to voters looking for an alternative to Abe's strongly conservative policies.

With a range of political views among its members, the Democratic Party has lacked a sense of unity and has lost supporters as political parties have regrouped in recent years around dominant personalities.

Renho, who was born to a Taiwanese father and Japanese mother, has also been criticized over her earlier dual nationality. Last week, she released part of her family registry to prove she had renounced her Taiwanese citizenship.

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