Japan's Fukuda wins PM vote, to form new cabinet
JAPAN: Japan's Yasuo Fukuda was chosen as prime minister by
parliament's lower house on Tuesday, ensuring him the nation's top job
and setting the stage to form a cabinet that must confront a feisty
opposition keen to force an election.
The ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) chose Fukuda, a 71-year-old
seasoned moderate, as its leader to revive party fortunes after a
disastrous year of scandals and election defeat under Shinzo Abe, who
resigned abruptly on Sept. 12.
The bespectacled Fukuda, a proponent of warmer ties with Japan's
Asian neighbours, bowed and smiled after being voted in as prime
minister by the lower house, where the ruling camp has a huge majority.
In a sign of the battles ahead, the opposition-controlled upper house
was expected shortly afterwards to vote for Ichiro Ozawa, leader of the
main opposition Democratic Party, but the vote by the more powerful
lower chamber takes precedence.
"(The LDP) may deceive the people or they may take makeshift
measures, but this will not last long," Democratic Party lawmaker Kenji
Yamaoka told a news conference. "We feel strongly that a change in
administration should take place as soon as possible."
Fukuda, for his part, reiterated that he wanted to discuss policy
matters with the Democrats and other opposition parties.
"I want to have dignified discussions with the aim of protecting the
people's livelihoods and the national interests," he told reporters.
The typically bland but sometimes testy Fukuda will become the oldest
new prime minister since Kiichi Miyazawa assumed the office in 1991 at
the age of 72, and the first son of a premier to hold the post.
Japanese media have reported that Fukuda will likely retain most
ministers - including Finance Minister Fukushiro Nukaga - from Abe's
cabinet, which was reshuffled just last month in an attempt by the
outgoing premier to maintain his grip on power.
Fukuda said former Foreign Minister Taro Aso, Fukuda's sole rival in
the LDP leadership race, declined an offer of a cabinet post, but added
he was still seeking his cooperation.
Fukuda on Monday tapped faction leaders who had backed his bid for
the top job as his party lieutenants, prompting criticism from the
opposition and media for relying on old-style factional dynamics and
cronyism in his personnel decisions.
Looming large among the battles for Fukuda is one over extending
beyond Nov. 1 a Japanese naval mission in support of U.S.-led operations
that opposition parties do not favour.
Tokyo, Tuesday, Reuters.