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菅 直人

Kan Naoto is the leader of Japan's largest opposition party, the Democratic Party of Japan. He was born on October 10, 1946 in Yamaguchi prefecture, and graduated from the Tokyo Institute of Technology in 1970, initially working as a patent attorney.

In 1977, he entered the world of politics with his own party, the United Social Citizen's Party. The USCP merged with the United Social Democratic Party in 1978, and Kan became the USDP's vice president. In 1980, he was finally elected to the Diet, representing Tokyo in the House of Representatives.

Kan worked his way up through the Diet, and by 1993 he was chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. At that time, the Liberal Democratic Party was losing its age-old grip on political power, and several opposition parties were beginning to coalesce against it: Kan's party merged into the New Party Sakigake in 1994, and Kan went through several committee chairmanships in Sakigake, eventually being named Minister for Health and Welfare by Prime Minister Murayama Tomiichi for ten months in 1996.

During the opposition's heyday, Kan was by far the most popular liberal politician in Japan. When the LDP's Hashimoto Ryutaro won the power back that year, Kan left Sakigake and used his political capital to found the Democratic Party. Initially its co-president, he became president in 1998, and then took over as secretary general from Hata Tsutomu in 2000. After being ousted for a brief period in 2002 and experiencing a colossal popularity slump, Kan returned to the presidency in December and is rebuilding his supporter base as an outspoken opponent of LDP premier Koizumi Junichiro's failing reforms.

Kan is set to become prime minister if the LDP loses its majority in the Diet: not a likely occurrence in the near future, but still a possibility. Although he has already decided who his cabinet would be (http://www.dpj.or.jp/english/about_us/nc.html), any DPJ-led government would likely have to be a coalition government with another party from the left, such as the Social Democratic Party of Japan or the New Komeito.

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