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Sunday, May 17, 2009

Kinder, gentler society pledged

Staff writer

For newly elected Democratic Party of Japan President Yukio Hatoyama, it's all about the love.

News photo
Rallying the troops: Yukio Hatoyama speaks to party members after being elected president of Democratic Party of Japan at a Tokyo hotel on Saturday. KYODO PHOTO

During the brief campaign to elect a new leader of the opposition party, he stressed that he wants to create a society of "love" and "yu-ai" (fraternity).

"In Japan, after the DPJ takes power, I want to build a society full of love," the 62-year-old Hatoyama said Friday. Born with a silver spoon into a distinguished family chock full of politicians and academics, Hatoyama has quickly climbed up the ladder of the political hierarchy despite getting a late start.

His grandfather, Ichiro Hatoyama, was a prime minister, while his father, Iichiro, was a foreign minister. His wife, Miyuki, is a former Takarazuka actress.

With his personable character and friendly smile, he has strong support from within the DPJ. But former Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone once told Hatoyama he was sweet like soft cream but would melt fast in the summer heat. Hatoyama admitted to a streak of indecision that was once his main weakness — but no longer.

"I used to be indecisive, but I have encountered various situations lately and I think that I've improved," he said Thursday. "I would like the people to see the new mature Hatoyama."

A graduate of the University of Tokyo and holder of a Ph.D. in engineering from Stanford University in the U.S., Hatoyama had been building a solid career as an academic, rising to the rank of assistant professor at Senshu University.

His younger brother, Kunio, is a member of the rival Liberal Democratic Party and is currently the minister of internal affairs and communications. The two brothers are very different in physical appearance.

The younger sibling had a head start in politics, winning his Diet election in 1976.

The new DPJ president was in the LDP when he was first elected to the Diet in 1986 from Hokkaido. After bolting from the party in 1993, he joined New Party Sakigake and eventually became one of the founding members of the current DPJ.

Analysts say Hatoyama, with his vague talk of "love," could be a better choice for the DPJ than his opponent, Katsuya Okada. With Hatoyama at its frontman, the party may have an easier time gaining support from the business world and other opposition parties to oust the LDP.

Okada, after all, is a known hardcore "policy fundamentalist" and a strong advocate of environmental measures who has pushed for tougher measures to get companies to cut carbon dioxide emissions.

Okada's stubborn and policy-oriented stance would also have made it difficult for the DPJ to form alliances with the likes of the Social Democratic Party and Kokumin Shinto (People's New Party), they say.

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