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Japan poll winner pledges 'new era'
Democrat leader Yukio Hatoyama vows "new kind of politics" after landslide win.
Last Modified: 31 Aug 2009 09:38 GMT

Hatoyama has said he wants to break the mould of five decades of Japanese politics [EPA]

The leader of Japan's opposition Democratic party has vowed to bring "a new kind of politics" to the country after his landslide win in Sunday's general election.

With official results still yet to be announced, Yukio Hatoyama began the process of forming a government on Monday with promises to focus spending on consumers, cut wasteful budget outlays and reduce the power of bureaucrats. 

Hatoyama's Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) is expected to take 308 seats in the 480-seat lower house of parliament, a figure he described as "an incredible number".

The DPJ held 112 seats prior to the election.

"It's taken a long time, but we have at last reached the starting line," Hatoyama told a news conference at his home.

Japan votes: Unofficial results


 Party needs simple majority of 241 seats to take power

 Official results due later on Monday

"This is by no means the destination. At long last we are able to move politics, to create a new kind of politics that will fulfil the expectations of the people."

Hatoyama is vowing to revive the world's second largest economy, saying he wants to end the dependence on business and bureaucracy that has defined Japanese politics for the last 50 years.

However the man expected to be Japan's next prime minister has vowed that his party will not "bulldoze" its policies through parliament despite its landslide win.

Speaking to Japanese broadcaster NHK he said the DPJ would not act arrogantly and would "exercise patience" as it seeks to move Japan in a new direction.

The election has brought an end to more than five decades of almost unbroken rule by the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which saw its partliamentary presence slashed from 303 seats to 119.

"We must exercise patience and seek people's understanding because we are given such latitude," said Hatoyama, who is expected to replace the LDP's Taro Aso as Japan's prime minister by mid-September.

Change

The 62-year-old US-trained engineer campaigned on a promise of change and people-centred politics against Aso's business-friendly LDP.

In depth


 Video: Japan opposition wins vote
 Aso quits after pearty defeat
 
Analysis: Japanese elections
 Changing face of Japanese politics
 Profile: Taro Aso
 Profile: Yukio Hatoyama
 Japan election: Party pledges
 101 East: Japan elections

On Monday Aso announced his formal resignation as head of the LDP saying it was up to him to take responsibility for the crushing defeat.

His likely successor faces tough, immediate challenges, such as trying to revive the country's battered economy and steering a new course in relations with the US, Japan's top ally.

"It's taken a long time, but we have at last reached the starting line," Hatoyama told a news conference at his home in Tokyo on Monday.

"This is by no means the destination. At long last we are able to move politics, to create a new kind of politics that will fulfil the expectations of the people."

Speaking to NHK, Hatoyama confirmed he would form a coalition with smaller partners such as the Social Democratic party and the People's New party, despite policy differences on security and other issues.

The DPJ's win in parliament's more powerful lower house on Sunday, combined with control of the upper house it secured in 2007 with some small allies, will end the deadlock in parliament that has plagued decision-making the last two years.

Challenges ahead

But the Democrats, who will face an upper house election in less than a year, will have to move quickly to keep support among voters worried about a record jobless rate and a rapidly ageing society that is inflating social security costs.

Aso said he took "responsibility" for his party's crushing defeat [EPA]
Hatoyama is to set up a transition team to organise the change of government, but has said he will not announce his cabinet until he is officially elected prime minister by a special session of parliament, expected to be in about two weeks.

Analysts say the democrats' spending plans might give a short-term lift to the economy, just now emerging from recession, but worry that its programmes will boost a public debt already equal to about 170 per cent of GDP.

Highlighting the economic challenges ahead, investors cheered the DPJ's victory, sending the Nikkei-225 share index up two per cent to an 11-month high on Monday morning.

But those gains were given up by the midday break, with the benchmark index sliding 0.35 per cent.

Untested

Voters, having chosen the untested democrats for the first time, will likely want to see proof quickly that they can do a better job than the LDP.

Koichi Nakano, a professor at Sophia University, told the Reuters news agency that "it's going to be crucial how they spend the first year in office, so in that sense they have to get focused very quickly to get things accomplished".

"Otherwise, the goodwill may dissipate very quickly and they may face a hostile upper house within a year."

The democrats have also pledged to forge a more equal and independent relationship with the US, raising concerns about possible friction in the alliance.

The White House said on Sunday that it was "confident that the strong US-Japan alliance and the close partnership ... will continue to flourish under the leadership of the next government in Tokyo".

Barack Obama, the US president, "looks forward to working closely with the new Japanese prime minister on a broad range of global, regional and bilateral issues", Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, said.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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