Vadim Ghirda/AP
Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso

Japan’s Ruling Party Picks Aso to Replace PM

September 22, 2008 12:36 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
The Liberal Democratic Party is hoping that Taro Aso can successfully guide the country out of political crisis following the early resignations of two former prime ministers.

Taro Aso Expected to Take the Helm

Aso won two-thirds of the vote for his party’s nomination, beating out four other candidates including Yuriko Koike, the first female candidate for the job. He is expected to be formally chosen as prime minister in a parliamentary session on Wednesday, due to the Liberal Democratic Party’s control of the lower house of Parliament.

The 68-year-old former foreign minister and former cement company president will be Japan’s third prime minister in a year. He will replace Yasuo Fukuda, who resigned unexpectedly earlier this month amid low approval ratings. Fukuda’s predecessor Shinzo Abe, also left office early.

Aso, described by several publications as an “outspoken” conservative, will face the challenge of guiding Japan through an expected economic downturn and the public’s growing dissatisfaction with the LDP.

“Standing here, I feel that this is Taro Aso’s destiny,” Aso said after the vote, according to Britain’s The Guardian. Aso is the grandson of former prime minister Shigeru Yoshida. “Who else but our party has the policies that address the public’s concerns? I am committed to winning the election and taking a further step toward economic recovery and reform.”

Background: Japan Looking for New Prime Minister

The BBC reported earlier this month that Aso had emerged as a front-runner in the election.

Fukuda announced his resignation on Sept. 1 during a televised emergency news conference, explaining that he had been stymied by the opposition party and was trying to avoid a “political vacuum” as the government went into a special parliamentary session. “I felt that we must particularly stress the importance of the economy,” Fukuda said, according to the Daily Mail. “If it will help even a little bit to make the parliamentary session go smoother, I decided that it might be better for someone other than me to lead.”

His troubled tenure was marked by low approval ratings (29 percent in a recent poll) and stalled economic growth. Japan has been mired in political uncertainty ever since popular former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi stepped down at the end of his term two years ago. Fukuda’s predecessor, Shinzo Abe, who succeeded Koizumi, also resigned prematurely, citing health reasons.

Key Players: Taro Aso, Yasuo Fukuda

Taro Aso was born on Sept. 20, 1940, and graduated from Gakushui University in 1963. He was elected to the House of Representatives for the first time in 1979, and re-elected nine times. He has served as the Minister of State, Economic Planning Agency, Minister of State for Economic and Fiscal Policy, Minister for Internal Affairs and Communications, and his most recent posting, Minister for Foreign Affairs.
Yasuo Fukuda, the son of former prime minister Takeo Fukuda, is a veteran politician, despite having spent the first part of his career as a “salaryman” at an oil company. He entered politics after his younger brother, who had been their father’s political heir, became seriously ill. Yasuo initially served as his father’s aide and then later became a parliamentarian and chief cabinet secretary under Koizumi.

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