Naoto Kan, famous for his lack of political lineage, was on Friday elected Japan's Prime Minister. He succeeds Yukio Hatoyama, who resigned on Wednesday, citing his failure to stay in step with the people's wishes.
Mr. Kan (63), Deputy Prime Minister under Mr. Hatoyama, gained endorsement by the House of Representatives and the House of Councillors separately.
The parallel voting is mandatory, and in case of discrepancy between the two choices, the person elected by the Representatives will be the Prime Minister.
Unlike Mr. Hatoyama and several of his predecessors, Mr. Kan, originally a civic campaigner, does not belong to a political dynasty.
Mr. Kan's endorsement by Diet (Parliament) followed his election as the president of the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), the leading constituent of the ruling coalition. The LDP's junior partner, the People's New Party, opted to stay with Mr. Kan. The Social Democratic Party, which parted ways with Mr. Hatoyama over his controversial decision to let a deeply unpopular American military base remain in the Okinawa prefecture, did not join Mr. Kan's coalition.
In the straight contest for the DPJ's top job, Mr. Kan defeated Shinji Tarutoko, widely seen as a proxy for Ichiro Ozawa, often dubbed by Japanese political observers the “shadow shogun” who called the political shots during Mr. Hatoyama's tenure of less than a year. While resigning, Mr. Hatoyama had asked Mr. Ozawa to step down from his key party post. Both had faced allegations of irregularities in mobilising and accounting political donations.
While Mr. Kan is expected to announce his Cabinet line-up early next week, Japanese officials expect him to retain Foreign and Defence Ministers.
The reasoning is that the U.S.-Japan accord on the unpopular Okinawa base “remains valid” as an inter-state document, and the two Ministers, who were responsible for drafting it, might be required to finalise the follow-up negotiations.