Japan election winners

September 2, 2009 12:00 am

, TOKYO, Sep 2 – Japan’s incoming leaders met the outgoing government on Wednesday to start a power transition after their landslide election win, as a poll showed three-quarters of people have high hopes for them.

The centre-left Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) scored a historic win in Sunday’s electoral earthquake, ousting Prime Minister Taro Aso’s conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) after decades of one-party dominance.

DPJ leader Yukio Hatoyama is set to become premier on September 16 and has promised to name his cabinet within a day. Not long after, he is due to jet off to meet world leaders at the United Nations general assembly.

To pave the way for a smooth change of government — Japan’s first since the early 1990s — outgoing Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura, a close aide to Aso, met DPJ secretary general Katsuya Okada on Wednesday.

"Since Japan does not have rules on government transitions, unlike the United States or Britain, we think this is the first step to make them," Kawamura, the top government spokesman, told reporters before the meeting.

"We will of course cooperate on a new government for the sake of the country and in the national interest," he said.

Premier-in-waiting Hatoyama, 62, plans to shape the next government in a coalition with two smaller parties — the Social Democrats and a tiny group of LDP defectors known as the People’s New Party.

The three parties are to hold talks late Wednesday to coordinate policies.

Hatoyama was also due to meet representatives on Wednesday from the Japanese Trade Union Confederation, or Rengo, a national umbrella organisation for labour unions which has been a strong support base for the DPJ.

Japan now faces a real power shift for the first time since the LDP was founded in 1955. The conservative party maintained its iron grip on power with only one break, a 10-month hiatus in 1993-1994, until now.

"This was an election in which people for the first time in the nation’s post-war history opted for a big change," Okada told a Tokyo symposium.

"While feeling the grave responsibility for power, we will try to avoid mistakes in administrative management. Led by new prime minister Hatoyama, we would like to join forces and work hard," he said.

He also said the DPJ had long emphasised the need for Japan to have strong diplomatic ties with China, adding that the party hoped to establish what he called win-win relations with the giant neighbour.

Media surveys, meanwhile, showed the electorate’s high hopes for the incoming government. A telephone survey by the mass-circulation Asahi Shimbun found 74 percent of respondents had high expectations for the new leaders.

Only 17 percent said they had no hope at all for the next government, according to the survey of 1,104 adults nationwide on Sunday and Monday, which was carried out following the DPJ’s overwhelming victory.

But only 32 percent said they thought the DPJ-led government would be able to change Japanese politics drastically, against 46 percent who believed it could not, the poll found.

"Voters welcome the government change generally, but a not insignificant number of them have doubt about the DPJ’s politics and capabilities," the Asahi commented.

The daily also quoted an unnamed DPJ official as saying: "If we cannot live up to expectations, the disappointment will be big.


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