TOKYO, Sept 15 (Reuters) - Japan's main opposition Democratic Party on Thursday elected a former cabinet minister as its first female leader on Thursday, following a last-minute hiccup when she was found to hold dual citizenship in violation of Japanese law.
Renho, 48, who goes by her given name only, hopes to repair the party's image, battered by three years in power that were plagued by infighting, policy flip flops and unkept promises that handed Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) a landslide election win in 2012.
Born to a Japanese mother and Taiwanese father, the former TV announcer and mother of twins was embarrassed this week when she discovered she held Taiwanese as well as Japanese citizenship.
The law requires those with dual citizenship to choose one by age 22 and when opting for Japan, endeavor to renounce the other nationality. But there is no penalty for not doing so.
Renho had previously said she believed paperwork to renounce her Taiwanese citizenship had been completed when she was a teenager but was recently notified by the de facto Taiwanese embassy in Japan that her Taiwanese citizenship was still valid.
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Renho Japan's first female Opposition leader
Renho Japan's first female Opposition leader
Japan's main opposition Democratic Party's new leader Renho (L) smiles after she was elected as the party leader at the party plenary meeting in Tokyo, Japan September 15, 2016. REUTERS/Toru Hanai
Japan's main opposition Democratic Party's new leader Renho (C) raises her fists with her party lawmakers after she was elected party leader at the party plenary meeting in Tokyo, Japan September 15, 2016. REUTERS/Toru Hanai TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Japan's main opposition Democratic Party's new leader Renho delivers a speech after she was elected as the party leader during the party plenary meeting in Tokyo, Japan September 15, 2016. REUTERS/Toru Hanai
Japan's main opposition Democratic Party's new leader Renho (L) reaches out to shakes hands with former party leader Katsuya Okada after she was elected party leader at the party plenary meeting in Tokyo, Japan September 15, 2016. REUTERS/Toru Hanai
Japan's main opposition Democratic Party's new leader Renho (2nd L) raises her hands with her party lawmakers including former leaders Seiji Maehara (L) and Katsuya Okada (2nd R) after she was elected party leader at the party plenary meeting in Tokyo, Japan September 15, 2016. REUTERS/Toru Hanai TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Renho Murata, president-elect of the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), reacts following the party's leadership election in Tokyo, Japan, on Thursday, Sept. 15, 2016. Renho, a half-Taiwanese former newscaster, was elected as leader of Japan's main opposition Democratic Party, despite criticism over a last-minute revelation that she had dual nationality. Photographer: Akio Kon/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Newly appointed Government Revitalization Minister Renho enters the prime minister's official residence to attend an attestation ceremony held at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo on September 2, 2011. Noda on September 2 named a cabinet with which he hopes to drive a fragile post-earthquake recovery forward and build party unity. AFP PHOTO / KAZUHIRO NOGI (Photo credit should read KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP/Getty Images)
Renho Murata, a Japanese politician from Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) delivers campaign speech to support candidate Journalist Shuntaro Torigoe, a candidate for Tokyo governor, during a campaign for the July 31 Tokyo gubernatorial election in front of Shibuya Station, Tokyo, Japan on Monday, July 18, 2016.
(Photo by Richard Atrero de Guzman/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
TOKYO - JULY 11: (JAPANESE NEWSPAPERS OUT) Government revitalization minister Renho shakes hands with her supporter after being elected in the Upper House election at her election headquarters on July 11, 2010 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Sankei via Getty Images)
Newly appointed State Minister in charge of Administrative Reform, Renho, enters the prime minister's office in Tokyo on June 8, 2010. The 42-year-old Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) lawmaker, who had modeled for magazines in her youth, is one of the DPJ's rising stars, becoming a household name for her fearless confrontations with tax-wasting bureaucrats. AFP PHOTO / JIJI PRESS (Photo credit should read JIJI PRESS/AFP/Getty Images)
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"I would like to apologize for the recent trouble I have caused by my unclear memory and statements," she said in a speech ahead of the vote.
Renho is one of a handful of women to grab the spotlight lately in Japan's male-dominated corridors of power, along with hawkish Defence Minister Tomomi Inada and Yuriko Koike, a former defense minister who is now Tokyo's first female governor.
She admitted on Thursday her party faces an uphill battle against the LDP, which together with its junior partner dominates both houses of parliament.
"From here on, we will face a giant ruling party," she said after the vote. "I'd like to call upon everyone to join me in becoming a party that does not criticize but makes proposals ... so one day we will become Japan's choice."
An Asahi newspaper poll this week showed 40 percent of those surveyed support the LDP against 7 percent for the Democrats.
In an interview with Reuters, Renho said the prime minister's signature "Abenomics" growth policies had stalled, and a Democratic government would not sharply shift Japanese foreign policies centered on Tokyo's alliance with Washington.
Renho beat former foreign minister Seiji Maehara and party lawmaker Yuichiro Tamaki in the leadership election.