Raw Japan

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Japan’s next prime minister?

February 23, 2009

Japan’s finance minister, Kaoru Yosano, already has three key cabinet posts. Now some pundits say  he looks well-placed to take the top job, too.

Public support for Prime Minister Taro Aso, suffering  a slump after policy flip-flops and gaffes, took another hit when close ally Shoichi Nakagawa quit as finance minister last week after being forced to deny he was drunk at at G7 gathering in Rome.

FINANCIAL/JAPAN-ECONMINSurveys also show his long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party is in danger of losing an election that must be held by October, making more and more ruling party lawmakers nervous about their own job security and looking for options.

“Yosano is the front-runner given the conditions at this juncture,” Sophia University professor Koichi Nakano says.

Yosano, 70, added the finance and banking supervision portfolios to his economics post after Nakagawa quit, prompting some Japanese media to refer to a “de facto Yosano government”.

A fluent English speaker and the grandson of two well-known poets, Yosano has a sharp sense of humour.

Asked by an opposition lawmaker why he was tapped to replace Nakagawa,  whom critics say Aso had chosen because he was a close mate, Yosano replied: “Isn’t it because I’m not his friend?”

Yosano resigned as chairman of the ruling party’s powerful tax panel in late 2006 due to throat cancer. He returned to politics after surgery and some time off and has served in the past two cabinets, but worries about his physical stamina remain.

Quizzed by senior opposition Democratic Party executive Naoto Kan over the heavy weight of holding three important cabinet posts, Yosano quipped: “If you’d take my place, I’d like to give up one.”

Whether Yosano could revive the LDP’s faltering fortunes is in doubt. Should he become premier, he would be the fourth Japanese leader since the last general election in 2005.

LDP candidates scrambling to find a popular figure to adorn their campaign posters are opting for neither Aso nor Yosano, TV programmes report, instead chosing photos with younger rivals.

“Yosano has been the person behing the Aso government, so he would just be getting in front,” Sophia University’s Nakano says. “I don’t think he’d be able to turn things around for the LDP all that much.”

Photo credit: Kaoru Yosano, REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao


Well, he’s certainly young enough, and what a hilarious chap he sounds.


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