P. S. Suryanarayana
SINGAPORE: Japan’s former Foreign Minister, Taro Aso, on Wednesday succeeded Yasuo Fukuda as Prime Minister, on the basis of a decisive win in the House of Representatives, the powerful lower chamber of Diet (Parliament) in Tokyo.
The upper chamber, House of Councillors, chose opposition leader Ichiro Ozwa for the same post in a run-off that Mr. Aso lost by 108 votes to 125. However, the preference of the House of Representatives prevailed under the due process, after a joint committee of the two wings of Parliament failed to pick a winner.
Mr. Aso’s winning tally in the lower chamber was 337 out of the 478 ballots cast. His Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and its coalition partner, New Komeito, command a two-thirds majority among the Representatives. And, since July last year, the main opposition outfit, the Democratic Party of Japan, controls the House of Councillors.
Mr. Fukuda’s election one year ago was also marked by a similar power-play in the divided Diet. However, 68-year-old Mr. Aso is now widely expected to call an early general election to seek a mandate to govern in his own right in the face of the gridlock in the Diet.
His agenda of engineering a national economic recovery and stabilising Japan’s ties with its ally, the U.S., would be in focus from now on, according to diplomats and analysts.
Having emerged as the LDP leader in a divisive intra-party battle a few days ago, Mr. Aso accommodated two of his rivals in his Cabinet line-up. Prominent among the other appointees are Hirofumi Nakasone as Foreign Minister and Yasukazu Hamada as Defence Minister. Yuko Obuchi, the 34-year-old daughter of a former Prime Minister, is said to be the youngest Minister since the Second World War