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Updated: September 16, 2009 10:46 IST

Japanese parliament convenes to elect PM

AP
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Japan's incoming Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, left, smiles with his Democratic Party of Japan Secretary-General Katsuya Okada, at parliament in Tokyo on Wednesday, Photo: AP.
Japan's incoming Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, left, smiles with his Democratic Party of Japan Secretary-General Katsuya Okada, at parliament in Tokyo on Wednesday, Photo: AP.

Japan’s parliament has convened to formally select former Opposition Leader Yukio Hatoyama as Prime Minister, following his party’s landslide election victory last month.

Parliament convened on Wednesday in a special session for the vote. Mr. Hatoyama’s left-of-centre party controls 308 of the 480 seats in parliament’s lower chamber, which selects the Prime Minister.

Prime Minister Taro Aso and his Cabinet resigned earlier in the day to pave the way for the new government.

The selection of Mr. Hatoyama would end more than 50 years of nearly unbroken rule by Mr. Aso’s conservative Liberal Democratic Party.

Mr. Hatoyama has promised to shake up Japan’s political system, cutting government waste, reinvigorating the world’s second-largest economy and focusing policies on consumers, not big business.

“I am excited by the prospect of changing history,” Mr. Hatoyama said early Wednesday. “I also feel the weight of the responsibility of making history.”

He will have a tough job ahead.

His first task would be to name a Cabinet. Media reports said he had already chosen Katsuya Okada as his foreign minister and Hirohisa Fujii as his finance minister. Though Mr. Okada has never held a Cabinet post, Mr. Fujii was finance minister under a coalition government in 1993-94, the only time in its 55-year history that the Liberal Democrats had previously been ousted from power.

Mr. Hatoyama has a limited pool of seasoned politicians to choose from. His Democratic Party of Japan, created a decade ago, has never held power, and nearly half of its members of the lower house will be serving in their first terms in parliament.

Mr. Hatoyama and his party face huge tasks that they must deal with quickly.

Japan’s economy is in its worst slump since World War II, unemployment is at a record high and wages are falling. The rapid aging of its population also threatens to be a drag on public coffers as the number of tax payers decreases and pension responsibilities swell.

Keywords: JapanparliamentchoosesnewPM

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