JAPAN/FILE: A look at Japan's Prime Minister-elect Yukio Hatoyama before he officially takes officeRecord ID: 461699
- Title: JAPAN/FILE: A look at Japan's Prime Minister-elect Yukio Hatoyama before he officially takes office
- Date: 15th September 2009
- Summary: TOKYO, JAPAN (RECENT - AUGUST 29, 2009) (REUTERS) (*** FLASH PHOTOGRAPHY ***) YUKIO HATOYAMA GIVING SPEECH ON A CAMPAIGN TRAILER YUKIO HATOYAMA WAVING MAN TAKING PICTURE OF YUKIO HATOYAMA YUKIO HATOYAMA SHAKING HANDS WITH PEOPLE YUKIO HATOYAMA BEING SURROUNDED BY CROWDS OF PEOPLE
- Reuters ID: LVA7CDAXY68D45FNDAQ63QXGY23O
- Duration: 00:00:33
- Topics: Domestic Politics
- Story Text: Japan's next prime minister Yukio Hatoyama, the heir to a political dynasty, is ready to take office in two days following a landslide victory in the general election.
The final countdown has started for Japan's next prime minister, Yukio Hatoyama, as he prepares to take office in just two days.
Leader of the Democrats, Hatoyama, visited current prime minister Taro Aso at his office on Monday (September 14) as the two former rivals held their last talks.
In the August 30 general election, Hatoyama's Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) won a stunning 308 seats in parliament's 480-member lower house, ousting Aso's Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which has been in power in Japan for more than half a century.
Hatoyama pledged to put more money in the hands of consumers, cut waste and reduce bureaucrats' control over policy-making.
Sixty-two-year-old Hatoyama, once nicknamed "the alien" for his unusual eyes, comes from a wealthy family where his mother's father founded Bridgestone Corp, one of the world's largest tyre makers.
"Hatoyama comes from a family of politicians just like the Kennedy family. His father was Japan's foreign minister, his grandfather was the prime minister and his great grandfather was the Lower House speaker," Tsuneo Watanabe, political analyst and director of policy research at the Tokyo Foundation, told Reuters on Monday (September 14).
Hatoyama is married to a former musical actress Miyuki Hatoyama, who has also published several cookbooks.
Holder of a doctorate in engineering from Stanford University, Hatoyama left the LDP in 1993 along with dozens of other party rebels.
The defections touched off a chain reaction that resulted in the ousting of the long-ruling conservative party by a reformist, multi-party coalition that lasted just 10 months.
In 1998 he helped establish the Democratic Party and served as leader before resigning in 2002.
Hatoyama's platform says his party would wrest power from bureaucrats as a way to cut wasteful expenditure and rebuild faith in Japan's creaking national pension scheme.
He has has also criticised the LDP for being too close to the United States in its security and diplomatic policies.
Some analysts point out that the incoming prime minister's personality might get in the way of his leadership.
"Some people call him an 'alien'. That's because he's too smart and is capable of coming up with various ideas and he has a lot of imagination. However, he runs the risk of losing focus because he may be distracted and may not be able to concentrate on what is really important and there is a possibility that he could lose momentum," said Watanabe.
Hatoyama has recently put the fuzzy notion of "yuai", or fraternity, at the core of his political philosophy, puzzling many voters and raising eyebrows abroad when he twins it with criticism of global capitalism.
Some also wonder if he will be radically different from the ageing politicians in the LDP, given his grandfather helped found the party.
The new ruling Democratic Party clinched a deal last week to form a coalition with two tiny parties whose help it needs to pass laws quickly, smoothing over gaps on security matters that could upset key ally Washington.
Despite a landslide victory in the election, the DPJ needed the backing of the Social Democrats and the conservative People's New Party to keep control of the upper chamber.
The parties had agreed to "raise the issue" of revising an agreement governing U.S. military forces in Japan and seek changes to a deal under which some 8,000 Marines are to be moved to Guam and a Marine base relocated within the southern island of Okinawa.
The Democrats have already vowed to re-think the redeployment plan but may want to play down the issue ahead of Hatoyama's first meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama in November. U.S. officials have said they will not renegotiate the deal.
The new ruling party's pledge to forge a more independent stance from key security ally Washington has raised concern about possible friction, although Hatoyama has said the alliance remains at the core of Japan's diplomacy.
Meanwhile, enthusiasm for the untested Democrats so far appears muted.
About 63 percent of voters polled by NHK public TV said they were happy with the election result, but more than half said the outcome was due to dissatisfaction with the old ruling party.
That was in line with a survey by the Sankei newspaper, in which about 53 percent said they were swayed by frustration with the LDP and only 30 percent cited policies as a factor.
The Democrats have vowed to put more money in the hands of households with child allowances, income support for farmers and and toll-free expressways while breaking the grip of bureaucrats over policies to cut waste and re-prioritise spending.
But some policies are less popular than others, and many voters wonder if the new government can fund planned spending and keep its pledge not to raise the 5 percent sales tax for four years without inflating an already huge public debt.
However, some analysts say voters were unlikely to dump the Democrats quickly given disarray in the decimated LDP.
"Japanese voters are pretty patient and unless he does something really stupid, they will take a wait-and-see stance, at least for three or four years. With regards to the Hatoyama regime, voters will see the first 100 days or so as a sort of 'honeymoon period' and they won't be too critical," said Watanabe.
Parliament will formally vote Hatoyama in as premier on September 16.
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