New Japanese PM elected

Long-time opposition leader Yukio Hatoyama was elected prime minister of Japan today, promising to reinvigorate the world’s second-largest economy and shake up government with his left-of-centre party.

Parliament convened in a special session to formally select Hatoyama as the new leader after prime minister Taro Aso and his cabinet resigned earlier in the day, ending more than 50 years of nearly unbroken rule by the conservative and staunchly pro-US Liberal Democratic Party.

In a landslide victory last month, Hatoyama’s party won 308 of the 480 seats to take control of the body’s lower chamber, which selects the prime minister. In today’s vote, Hatoyama won 327 of the 480 votes in the lower house.

Hatoyama, head of the Democratic Party of Japan, has promised to cut government waste and restart the economy by putting a freeze on planned tax hikes, removing tolls on roads and focusing policies on consumers, not big business.

“I am excited by the prospect of changing history,” Hatoyama said today. “The battle starts now.”

He will have a tough job ahead.

His first task is to name a cabinet. Media reports said he had already chosen Katsuya Okada as his foreign minister and Hirohisa Fujii as his finance minister. Though Okada has never held a cabinet post, Fujii was finance minister under a coalition government in 1993-94, the only time in its 55-year history that the Liberal Democrats had previously been ousted from power.

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