- Title: JAPAN: Tokyo wakes up to new leader who faces the task of forming a government
- Date: 1st September 2009
- Summary: TOKYO, JAPAN (AUGUST 31, 2009) (REUTERS) TOKYO STREETS VARIOUS OF PEOPLE WALKING IN THE STREETS IN THE RAIN (SOUNDBITE) (Japanese) TAKAYUKI OHIRA, 34-YEAR-OLD IT WORKER, SAYING: "I'm hoping that they'll clean up a lot of the waste that the LDP didn't, such as the bureaucracy." (SOUNDBITE) (Japanese) MASAYUKI MORI, 73-YEAR-OLD RETIREE, SAYING: "I think it's quite hard to actually change, but if they don't do what they've promised in their manifesto, I don't think that voters will stay quiet." (SOUNDBITE) (Japanese) ANNA AKAMATSU, 30-YEAR-OLD HOUSEWIFE, SAYING: "More than a Hatoyama government, there's still the impression that [Former Democratic Party Head] Ozawa is involved, and so I'm a bit unsure about how he plans to take control." PEOPLE WALKING IN AND OUT OF SUBWAY STATION JAPANESE DIET BUILDING SECURITY AT THE GATE OF THE BUILDING MORE OF JAPANESE DIET BUILDING
- Embargoed: 16th September 2009 13:00
- Location: Japan
- Country: Japan
- Topics: Domestic Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA6IJI9S1QG130AAYXGIMAZMG5X
- Story Text: Tokyo wakes up to a new political reality after a general election that is expected to see the ruling coalition government loosing power for the first time in practically 50 years.
Tokyo woke up to a new political reality on Monday (August 31) after Japanese voters swept the opposition party to a historic victory in an election on Sunday (August 30), ousting the ruling conservative party and handing the untested Democrats the job of breathing life into a struggling economy.
The win by the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) ended a half-century of almost unbroken rule by the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and breaks a deadlock in parliament, ushering in a government that has promised to focus spending on consumers, cut wasteful budget outlays and reduce the power of bureaucrats.
On the streets of Tokyo people cautiously welcomed the new government in charge.
"I'm hoping that they'll clean up a lot of the waste that the LDP didn't, such as the bureaucracy," Takayuki Ohira, 34-year-old businessman, told Reuters.
Others said they are still skeptical about the new change.
"I think it's quite hard to actually change, but if they don't do what they've promised in their manifesto, I don't think that voters will stay quiet," said Masayuki Mori, a 73-year-old retiree.
Many raised questions to whether Yukio Hatoyama, DPJ leader and prime minister elect, can lead the country.
"More than a Hatoyama government, there's still the impression that [Former Democratic Party Head] Ozawa is involved, and so I'm a bit unsure about how he plans to take control," Anna Akamatsu, 30-year-old housewife, told Reuters.
Japan's next leader Hatoyama, fresh from a historic election win, face the task on Monday of forming a government to tackle challenges such as reviving the economy and steering a new course with close ally Washington.
"It's taken a long time, but we have at last reached the starting line. This is by no means the destination. At long last we are able to move politics, to create a new kind of politics that will fulfill the expectations of the people," Hatoyama told a news conference at his home in Tokyo on Monday.
The untested Democrats, who will face an upper house election in less than a year, will have to move quickly to keep support among voters worried about a record jobless rate and a rapidly ageing society that is inflating social security costs.
Hatoyama is to set up a transition team to organise the change of government, but has said he will not announce his cabinet until he is officially elected prime minister by a special session of parliament, probably in about two weeks.
Meanwhile, the defeated LDP leader and prime minister Taro Aso said he took responsibility for the defeat, adding an LDP leadership race to pick a successor should be held soon.
Japanese news agency Jiji said the LDP's performance was the party's worst since its founding in 1955.
"It was the result of that we LDP did not successfully respond to the people's call for change," Takeo Kawamura, chief government spokesperson, told a news conference in Tokyo on Monday (August 31).
Support for the LDP, which swept to a huge election win in 2005 on charismatic leader Junichiro Koizumi's pledges of reform, crumbled due to scandals and a perceived inability to address the deep-seated problems of a shrinking and fast-ageing population.
Political analysts say the new government in charge will likely to appear more united than the defeated LDP.
"I think the governing style of the DPJ, regardless of whether it's Hatoyama or not, who's at the top position, it's going to be more collegial and more collective than the LDP style since Koizumi," Koichi Nakano, Associate Professor of Political Science at Sophia University, told Reuters on Monday (August 31). That's not necessarily a bad thing," he added.
The Democrats want to forge a diplomatic stance more independent of the United States, raising concerns about possible friction in the alliance.
"The DPJ places more emphasis on Asia. It also places more emphasis on the U.N. framework as oppose to just following the U.S. line," said Nakano.
"So, that seems to be the key difference that they want to say that their policy alternatives are not just stick to the United States, but they're going to build on the relationship with China, with other Asian neighbors, and also to try to work within the U.N. framework far more than in the LDP government."
Economic experts worry spending plans by the Democrats, a mix of former LDP members, ex-Socialists and younger conservatives founded in 1998, will inflate Japan's huge public debt.
The party has vowed not to raise the 5 percent sales tax for four years while it focuses on cutting wasteful spending and tackles the problems of a greying population.
Japan is ageing more quickly than any other rich country. More than a quarter of its people will be 65 or older by 2015.
The economy returned to growth in the second quarter, mostly because of short-term stimulus around the world, but the jobless rate rose to a record 5.7 percent in July.
Financial markets welcomed the end to a political deadlock that has stymied policies as Japan struggled with its worst recession since World War Two.
The Nikkei share average hit jumped to its highest in nearly 11 months before easing back, while the yen rose to a 7-week high.
The yen was boosted by the end of electoral uncertainty, though the cabinet line-up may not be decided for weeks.
- Copyright Holder: REUTERS
- Usage Terms/Restrictions: None