[ 2006-09-26 10:19 ]
Shinzo Abe, an advocate of tighter military ties
with the United States, was set to be elected Japan's prime minister by
parliament on Tuesday, confirming him at 52 as the country's youngest
leader since World War Two.
|New leader of Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic
Party (LDP) Shinzo Abe (R) smiles with newly elected party
executives, Hidenao Nakagawa (2L) of LDP Secretary General and Yuya
Niwa (L) of the party's decision-making General Council chairman at
the party headquarters in Tokyo. Abe was to become Japan's youngest
prime minister and the nation's first leader born after World War II
on Tuesday, replacing the veteran Junichiro Koizumi.[AFP]
The hawkish Abe, a relative
novice by Japanese political
standards, faces the challenges of repairing ties with China -- frayed by
Koizumi's visits to the Yasukuni war shrine -- and keeping
economic reforms on track while addressing voter concerns about widening
Abe, elected president of the Liberal Democratic Party last week by a
two-thirds majority, was to be approved as prime minister by both chambers
of parliament, where the party holds a majority, and will announce his
cabinet the same day.
A soft-spoken, popular lawmaker whose grandfather was also prime
minister, Abe has pledged to rewrite Japan's pacifist constitution, boost
Tokyo's say in global affairs, and revive respect for traditional values
and pride in Japan's past.
He has also promised to nurture growth while pushing ahead with the
economic reforms begun by Koizumi, and give precedence to spending cuts
before tax rises in the struggle to rein in Japan's huge public debt, the
biggest among advanced countries.
Abe's ascent to the nation's top job brings down the curtain on the
sometimes tumultuous reign of Koizumi, one of Japan's most colourful and
popular leaders in decades.
Koizumi, a media-savvy maverick known
for snappy soundbites and cameo appearances with celebrities, stamped his
mark on Japan's political scene after taking power in April 2001 with
promises to pry his party loose from the grip of vested interests and lift
government's heavy hand from the stalled economy.