Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Shinzo Abe: A New Japanese Premier

Another new for Asia.
Outspoken conservative Shinzo Abe has been elected as Japan's youngest prime minister and the first leader born after World War II, replacing veteran Junichiro Koizumi.

The 52-year-old Abe, who has vowed to rewrite the US-imposed 1947 pacifist constitution, was chosen on a party-line vote of parliament six days after he was picked by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

The conservative Abe won 339 of 475 votes in the powerful lower house, as well as a majority in the upper house.

"Now the new era of Abe begins," said Hidenao Nakagawa, who was named as secretary general of the ruling party.

Nakagawa is a fellow conservative but also has close connections to China. He has said he will try to repair relations soured by Koizumi's visits to a controversial war shrine, which is seen as a symbol of Tokyo's militarist past.

Junichiro Koizumi, 64 held the premiership for more than five years, and will be remembered mainly for his economic reforms. He stepped down after more than five years in office, which made him Japan's longest-serving premier in three decades

He came to power in 2001, promising to transform the country's political landscape, and saying he would even destroy his own party - the LDP - if that was what was needed to push through much-needed reforms.

He tried to boost Japan's world presence, sending troops to Iraq and taking a firm line on North Korea.

Abe was set to unveil his cabinet later in the day, with early reports showing that he is surrounding himself with supporters of Koizumi's free-market reforms of the world's second largest economy.

Abe is known to have views to the right of Koizumi on history issues. He has not said if he will visit the Yasukuni shrine, which honors war dead and war criminals.

Abe's close ally Yasuhisa Shiozaki, a young Harvard-educated free trade advocate, is tipped to be the new chief cabinet secretary, the number two post in the cabinet which serves as the top government spokesman, reports said.Shiozaki, 55, served as a senior vice foreign minister under Koizumi and is often described as part of a new generation of intellectually gifted and media-savvy Japanese politicians.
Foreign Minister Taro Aso, who ran against Abe for the party leadership, is likely to remain in the cabinet, perhaps again as foreign minister, according to Japanese media reports.

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