I say the sequel because his father was Prime Minister in the 1970’s which is apparently common in Japan as a certain number of political dynasties pretty much have disproportionate control over the body politic at the national level. This guy though is real establishment, real old school, fairly passive. He will seek to create concensus with S.Korea and China and likely stall any attempts to normalize Japan’s military or further economic reforms that Koizumi started. (sigh)
Veteran Lawmaker Chosen as Japan’s Prime Minister
TOKYO, Sept. 23 — Yasuo Fukuda, a mild-mannered moderate known for his ability to build consensus behind the scenes, was chosen Sunday by Japan’s governing Liberal Democratic Party to become the country’s next prime minister.
Facing one of their deepest crises in a half-century of power, Liberal Democrats decided on Mr. Fukuda, 71, to steady a party wobbling from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s disastrous one-year government, his abrupt resignation 11 days ago and a surging opposition.
Mr. Fukuda, sometimes described as a foreign policy dove who has long emphasized the importance of building strong ties with China and the rest of Asia, represents a break from the nationalist Mr. Abe and his predecessor, Junichiro Koizumi. At home, analysts say, Mr. Fukuda will be pressed to slow down the political and economic reforms undertaken by Mr. Koizumi that had angered the party’s base.
“Today’s Liberal Democratic Party is facing grave difficulties,” Mr. Fukuda said in a short acceptance speech. “First of all, I will work to revitalize the Liberal Democratic Party. Then I would like to regain the people’s trust and remake this into a party that can steadily carry out policies.”
The party’s national lawmakers and prefectural chapters handed Mr. Fukuda 330 of 527 valid votes cast. His only rival, Taro Aso, 67, the party’s secretary general who shared Mr. Abe’s right-wing views, won 197 votes.
In reality, the party’s bosses had already picked Mr. Fukuda a week earlier — after intense negotiations over cellphones and in this city’s exclusive restaurants. Although Japan’s news media had crowned Mr. Fukuda the country’s next leader more than a week ago, the two candidates last week toured the country in joint appearances before general audiences that had no votes in the party election.
The selection process harked back to the days of smoke-filled back rooms, reversing the party’s recent relative openness. Mr. Fukuda was endorsed by eight of the party’s nine factional bosses, who believe that Mr. Koizumi’s economic reforms, especially steep cuts in public work projects, were to blame for the party’s devastating loss in July’s election in the upper house of Parliament.
“The factions have staged a comeback — it’s old-style politics again,” said Ikuo Kabashima, a professor of politics at the University of Tokyo. “Mr. Fukuda, above all, symbolizes that. He is the exact opposite of Mr. Koizumi. We’ll probably see more public works from now on, plenty of pork.”
Political analysts and opposition lawmakers say Mr. Fukuda, as a consensus candidate, is likely to serve as a caretaker leader until the party can regroup. He will formally become prime minister in a vote by the Liberal Democrat-controlled lower house of Parliament on Tuesday.
Mr. Fukuda will not have to call a general election to seek a popular mandate until September 2009, though he has hinted that he may do so next spring after Parliament passes next year’s budget.
The newly empowered opposition Democratic Party, which repeated its call on Sunday for an immediate general election, is expected to try to force an election by blocking the extension of a Japanese naval mission in the Indian Ocean that refuels American and other ships participating in the war in Afghanistan. A special law permitting that mission, passed in 2001 to circumvent Japan’s pacifist Constitution, expires on Nov. 1.
Mr. Fukuda said he would push to extend the mission. In general, however, he is regarded as more cautious in military matters. Priorities set by Mr. Abe, like revising the pacifist Constitution and removing limits on Japan’s ability to engage in self-defense with other countries, are expected to be shelved. Mr. Fukuda has said he has no intention of visiting the Yasukuni Shrine, the memorial to Japan’s war dead and a symbol of Japanese militarism throughout Asia.
A longtime salaryman at a Japanese oil company, Mr. Fukuda eventually quit to serve as a secretary to his father, Takeo, a prime minister in the late 1970s. He was elected to the lower house of Parliament in 1990 and went on to serve as chief cabinet secretary to Mr. Koizumi.
Mr. Fukuda has said he will pursue the economic and political reforms that started under Mr. Koizumi but slowed under Mr. Abe. Further backpedaling would jeopardize the changes that economists say are needed to boost Japan’s productivity and reduce its fiscal deficit. But many inside Mr. Fukuda’s party want to increase spending to recapture their traditional rural voters, who deserted them in July’s election.
“The faction leaders made their selection on the basis of who’s easy to control,” said Muneo Suzuki, a former Liberal Democratic lawmaker who leads a small opposition party. “As a result, if the question is whether Mr. Fukuda can take the initiative and govern, he can’t.”
But Kosei Ueno, a former Liberal Democratic lawmaker close to Mr. Fukuda, said that Mr. Fukuda was not the “type” to buckle under pressure and that he would follow his “own way of thinking.”
Mr. Fukuda lacks the charisma that empowered Mr. Koizumi to carry out policies often opposed by his own party. He is also a generation older than Mr. Abe, whose initial popularity rested partly on the fact that he was Japan’s first leader born after the end of World War II.
Known for making elusive and sometimes cynical comments, Mr. Fukuda often comes across as stern in public.
“I don’t think I can exercise Mr. Koizumi’s kind of leadership,” he said in a news conference last week. Instead, he said he wanted to lead by gaining people’s understanding, adding, “I think leadership will emerge as a result.”