Yasuo Fukuda today became Japan's latest Prime Minister following the formality of a vote (338-117 in Fukuda's favor) in Japan's Lower House, which is controlled by Fukuda's party the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).
Fukuda succeeds Shinzo Abe, who resigned citing ill-health last week after just less than a year as premier - a period marked by scandal-related resignations and a suicide in Abe's hapless cabinet.
Fukuda, like Abe before him and his main challenger for the LDP top post Taro Aso, is a scion of the ruling elite. His father, Takeo Fukuda, was Prime minister from 1976-78 and is best remembered for his phrase, "Jinmei wa chikyu yori omoi" (Human existence is more important than the world) when he ordered the release of several Japanese Red Army members and paid a ransom after a Japanese Airlines aircraft was hijacked by the JRA on leaving Mumbai en route for Tokyo from Paris in 1977.
Fukuda Junior, 71, was born in Gunma Prefecture and attended the prestigious Waseda University in Tokyo before starting a career in the oil business during which he spent two years in the US. Takeo Fukuda entered politics when he became his father's secretary during his father's premiership. He was elected to the Diet on the LDP ticket in 1990 and served as Chief Cabinet Secretary under Yoshiro Mori and Junichiro Koizumi.
Fukuda is considered a pragmatic, pro-US moderate who is hoping to enhance Japan's relations with Asia by not visiting the controversial Yasukuni Shrine, which enshrines Japan's war dead including men found guilty of war-crimes by the victorious Allies after World War II. Fukuda has also pledged to address the widening income gap between urban and rural Japanese. Fukuda, however, is not without his own skeletons in the cupboard. Like many of Japan's political elite he failed to keep up public pension premiums for a period of three years which forced his resignation as Chief Cabinet Secretary in 2004.
Fukuda becomes Japan's 91st Prime Minister and the first to follow his father to the top job. Fukuda is believed to enjoy classical music and has a penchant for gray suits. Plus ca change.
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Tuesday, September 25, 2007