Fukuda wins LDP vote, assured of becoming next prime minister

Fukuda wins LDP vote, assured of becoming next prime ministerModerate veteran Yasuo Fukuda easily won election as president of Japan’s struggling Liberal Democratic Party Sunday, assuring his selection as the new prime minister in a Diet vote later this week.

Fukuda won 330 votes to former Foreign Minister Taro Aso’s 197 votes, the party announced, giving Fukuda 63 percent of the ballots.

Fukuda, 71, the son of a prime minister from the 1970s, has vowed to keep his country in the fight against terrorism, improve relations with Asia and address inequalities in the world’s second-largest economy.

Fukuda vowed after the vote to rebuild the popularity of the LDP, which has plunged under a year of scandals and policy missteps by outgoing Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has been hospitalized since announcing on Sept. 12 that he would resign.

“You have chosen me even though I do not have much experience. I am prepared to do my utmost to live up to my responsibilities,” a determined-looking, unsmiling Fukuda said. “I will work to revitalize the LDP, to win back public trust, and push forward with my policies.”

The parliament was scheduled to vote on Tuesday, but Fukuda was guaranteed to win because of the LDP’s vast majority in the lower house, the more powerful of the two chambers.

Earlier in the day, Fukuda outlined his key policies: further engage North Korea diplomatically, push for extension of Japan’s naval mission in support of U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan, and give aid to rural regions left behind by the economic recovery.

Fukuda, who served as chief Cabinet secretary from 2000 to 2004, had the support of the major factions of the LDP. His dominance over Aso, a hawk who served as Abe’s foreign minister until August, was so clear by Sunday that morning papers had already given him the title of LDP president, and he was asked on NHK if he would choose Aso as his foreign minister.

Fukuda would inherit a political environment and LDP left in serious disarray.

Abe, 53, came into office a year ago with high support ratings and an unquestioned ruling coalition dominance in parliament.

But he quickly frittered away those advantages as his Cabinet overflowed with money scandals and he pressed ahead with a nationalist agenda while people demanded more attention to bread-and-butter issues such as pensions.

The LDP suffered a serious blow in elections in July for the upper house of parliament in which the resurgent opposition seized control of the chamber, heightening calls for snap elections for the lower house as well.

Abe apologized to the party for his sudden resignation in a message read after Fukuda’s selection, but said he would not resign as a lawmaker.

“I apologize to LDP President Aso and all LDP lawmakers, party members and most of all the Japanese public for causing this political vacuum,” Abe wrote. “I hope the new LDP leader will powerfully push ahead with his policies.”

Fukuda has arrived as an antidote to Abe. A sober, brainy party elder, Fukuda — son of a prime minister from the 1970s — has vowed to concentrate on down-to-earth issues such as economic equality and growth, while seeking warmer ties with the rest of Asia.

His first order of business will be pushing the Afghan measure through parliament, where the opposition has vowed to defeat it. Japanese tankers have been refueling coalition ships in the Indian Ocean since 2001, and the U.S. — Japan’s top ally and protecter — has been pushing for an extension of the operation.

Fukuda has argued that it was Japan’s responsibility to continue the mission to stabilize a world order that has allowed Japan to become prosperous and secure.

“We need to show our intention to continue the mission as a message to the international society,” Fukuda said earlier Sunday. “If this drags on too long we might send a wrong message to the world as if we were not committed to making that contribution.”

It was unclear, however, how long Fukuda would be able to stave off calls for lower house elections. He has termed such calls “understandable.”

Media reports said the LDP wanted to pass the Afghan measure and the national budget early next year before dissolving the lower house.

“When the public and lawmakers strongly voice a need to dissolve the parliament, I think it wouldn’t be good to resist that call,” Fukuda said on NHK. (AP)

Fukuda Yasuo is now the new Prime Minister of Japan, replacing Abe Shinzo who sent his entire power structure into a shitstorm with his right-wing nationalism and American interests at the expense of economic woes. It’s interesting to see how Fukuda gave a modest response to his selection as the LDP leader in constrast to the bold rhetoric pitched by Abe about turning Japan into a “beautiful nation”.

Some overseas Japanese I have spoken to wanted to see Aso take power, but I keep pointing out that it’s not going to happen since Aso represents a continuation of all that is wrong under Abe’s rule. They also complained that Fukuda is from a political family, but so was Aso, however Fukuda was given approval by Koizumi. If Fukuda was good enough for Koizumi and won’t ruin regional ties by making super fun trips to Yasukuni, then he is good enough for his entire party and his taxpayers.

Again, it’s too soon to say what will happen since there was so much optimism with Abe Shinzo last year, which he magically fucked up with one misstep after another. The best Fukuda can do is hammer out a compromise with Ozawa Ichiro over allowing Japan to refuel allies in Afghanistan since they can do under existing UN mandates but cancel all support to America’s War of Terror in Iraq since that is just an American need. If he fails miserably at this, then it looks like the LDP is going to lose more seats in the Lower House of the Diet to the normally-ineffectual DPJ.

Fukuda also needs to realise that everything in Japan is largely concerned with the economy. Again, “It’s the economy, stupid.” Fukuda will fail miserably and suffer from severe stress like Abe, if he fails to address this and resorts to other initiatives.

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