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Asia

Naoto Kan is the new Japanese PM

Japan's parliament has elected Naoto Kan as the new prime minister. Earlier this week, Yukio Hatoyama resigned from the post after his approval ratings plunged.

Japan's new PM Naoto Kan

Japan's new PM Naoto Kan

Naoto Kan won the support of 291 lawmakers from the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) in the election for party leader, against 129 for the only other candidate, the little-known legislator Shinji Tarutoko. Kan was later elected by parliament to become Japan's new premier.

Naoto Kan, who was the finance minister and deputy prime minister in Yukio Hatoyama's outgoing cabinet, is the fifth person to take over the post of prime minister in four years. Hatoyama stepped down after only eight months in office, as calls for him to go grew within his Democratic Party of Japan.

Japan's outgoing PM Yukio Hatoyama, right, walks near Democratic Party Secretary General Ichiro Ozawa, left front, after resigning

Japan's outgoing PM Yukio Hatoyama, right, walks near Democratic Party Secretary General Ichiro Ozawa, left front, after resigning

Upper House polls

With Kan as the new PM, the DPJ is hoping to regain popularity in the run-up to an Upper House election due in July. The polls are crucial for the ruling coalition to avoid policy deadlock.

"With all of you, I would first would like to compile firm policies or plans to rebuild Japan ... ahead of the upper house election," the 63-year-old Kan said in his acceptance speech. He is expected to name his new cabinet on Tuesday, news media reported.

Challenges ahead

The DPJ won a historic landslide victory in last August's general election, ending more than half a century of almost uninterrupted rule by the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). But Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama's approval ratings were in steady decline because of financial scandals involving the secretary general of his party, Ichiro Ozawa, and his failure to fulfil the promise of relocating the controversial Okinawa US base.

Demonstrators shout anti-US military slogans at a protest against a US military base on Okinawa

Demonstrators shout anti-US military slogans at a protest against a US military base on Okinawa

Tackling huge public debt and managing ties with Japan's security ally, the US, are some of the issues that Kan will have to deal with during his term.

Kan' s background

Unlike many recent premiers in Japan, Kan does not hail from a political dynasty. He started his political career as a grassroots student activist, later joining small political parties. He helped formed the DPJ in 1996.

Though nicknamed "Ira-Kan" or "Irritable Kan" for his quick temper, Kan became Japan's most popular politician in the mid-1990s when he served as health minister and forced bureaucrats to expose a scandal over HIV-tainted blood products.

du/Reuters/AP/AFP/dpa

Editor: Anne Thomas

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