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Japan gets new prime minister

Tue., Sept. 26, 2006, midnight

TOKYO – Nationalist Shinzo Abe, a proponent of a tight alliance with the United States and a more assertive military, won election as Japan’s new prime minister Tuesday, scoring comfortable majorities in both houses.

Abe won 339 votes out of 475 counted in the powerful lower house, and 136 ballots out of 240 in the upper house, reflecting the dominance of his ruling Liberal Democratic Party in parliament.

Abe, 52, has pushed for a tight alliance with the United States, revision of the pacifist constitution, a more assertive foreign policy and patriotic teaching in public schools.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s Cabinet resigned en masse Tuesday morning as a procedural move to pave the way for the new government. Abe is expected to name his Cabinet picks before presenting himself before Emperor Akihito.

Koizumi left the prime minister’s office with a bouquet of flowers in his hands as supporters cheered, ending more than five years in office marked by far-reaching changes such as passage of legislation to privatize the postal service.

“There is no end to reform,” Koizumi said in a parting statement. “I hope that the public will work with the new prime minister to believe in Japan’s future and continue the reform with courage and hope.”

Abe signaled the primary directions of his government on Monday by choosing a pro-growth fiscal conservative and a fellow nationalist Cabinet minister to two top posts in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

Hidenao Nakagawa – considered one of Abe’s closest aides – was named secretary-general of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

Nakagawa backs better relations with China, cuts in budget spending and has argued against raising taxes.

Abe also tapped a foreign policy hawk, Shoichi Nakagawa, to head the LDP’s policy research council. Nakagawa supports a hard line on North Korea, history textbooks that play down Japanese wartime atrocities, and visits to Yasukuni war shrine, which honors war criminals among Japan’s war dead and is considered by critics to be a glorification of Tokyo’s past militarism.


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