Hatoyama takes over as Japan PM

Democratic Party leader promises to reverse countrys long economic decline


Hatoyama has promised to reverse Japan’s long economic decline by boosting social benefits and aligning policies more closely with public needs, rather than those of big business. He has also spoken of redefining Japan’s relationship with the United States, its closest ally.

“I am excited by the prospect of changing history,” Hatoyama said on Wednesday. “I also feel a great responsibility.”

Hatoyama quickly named Hirohisa Fujii, a career bureaucrat-turned-politician, as the country’s new finance minister. He inherits an economy that is emerging from its deepest recession in decades and saddled with debt nearly twice Japan’s gross domestic product.

Fujii is likely to play an important role in reining in the bureaucracy: The incoming government has promised to slash spending on wasteful public works projects and expand social welfare. He will be joined in that task by the deputy prime minister Naoto Kan, 62, a co-founder of the Democratic Party who will lead an agency called the National Strategy Bureau.

Katsuya Okada, 56, a moderate, was named foreign minister. Hatoyama, 62, can be a confounding political figure: a management professor with a doctorate in engineering from Stanford University; a critic of globalisation; an admirer of John F Kennedy; a social and political blueblood who overturned Japan’s postwar political order with a resounding electoral defeat of the Liberal Democratic Party last month.

Hatoyama peppers his speeches with lofty abstractions — he likes to say “politics is love” — and he once wrote that humanity needs “cosmic consciousness,” which earned him his nickname, the Space Alien. His wife, Miyuki, 66, a former actress, claimed in a book last year that she was once taken to Venus in a triangular alien spacecraft.

‘Inexperienced party’

In a more earthly realm, some analysts are doubtful of just how much the Democrats, an inexperienced party founded just 11 years ago, will be able to change in a country that has long been run by its powerful technocrats. Controlling the bureaucracy was the party’s signature campaign promise, one that found widespread support among voters tired of decades of insider-driven politics and spending.

Hatoyama filled out his cabinet with other close allies from his untested party. But he also will need to accommodate the Democrats’ two coalition partners — the Social Democratic Party and the People’s New Party, a conservative splinter party — which could complicate policy-making while testing the new prime minister’s leadership.

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