Japan: new prime minister

Former Health and Welfare Minister Junichiro Koizumi, 59, has been elected a new president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party of Japan. Following the rules of the Japanese political system, Mr. Koizumi will become the new prime minister of Japan later this week. Mr. Koizumi is known as a strong supporter of structural reforms and will be Japan's third prime minister in less than three years. The new leader won 298 votes out of 487 in the presidential ballot, defeating the former prime minister Ryutaro Hashimoto. Before the election, Japanese commentators saw Mr. Hashimoto as the most likely winner. The former prime minister is the leader of the largest LDP faction in the Diet, with 101 members. The ruling party remains, however, divided into a number of factions. This fact, and a recent modification of the voting system, were two factors facilitating a landslide victory of Junichiro Koizumi. The exact nature of reforms proposed by the new LDP president is not widely known outside Japan. In first public statement, however, Mr Koizumi called 'keeping favourable ties with the United States' his first priority in foreign affairs.


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